Richard O. Moore’s poésie-vérité documentaries

Anne Sexton

“For scholars writing on the poet Frank O’Hara, one of the most fascinating documents is the National Educational Television outtakes from Richard O. Moore’s documentary series USA: Poetry (1966). The O’Hara film itself was broadcast in August 1966, shortly after Frank O’Hara’s death, offering the American public exceptional footage of the poet. In 2015, poet and essayist Garrett Caples wrote a series of essays on Moore, the first of which, ‘Work, or the Man Who Shot Frank O’Hara,’ celebrated the publication of Moore’s first volume of poems, Writing the Silences (University of California Press, 2010). With subsequent articles published in 2015, Caples paid homage to Moore’s seminal work in the field of American letters: not only did Moore contribute to making American poetry better known to the general public from the mid-1960s onwards, but the poets he chose to shoot were, for the most part, far from being recognized at the time the documentaries were made. For a reader interested in the poetics, aesthetics, and politics of Donald Allen’s New American Poetry (1960), Moore’s tastes and choices were not only excellent but also prescient. For instance, Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery (USA: Poetry program #10) were not obvious choices for a filmmaker shooting a poetry documentary for educational television in the early 1960s. Today, however, Moore’s films are considered invaluable archives of midcentury American poetry and poetics, as they documented the life and work of poets who have become some of the most influential writers of their time. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley, Moore was part of the ‘circle of anarchist poets centered around Kenneth Rexroth in the 1940s — including Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Philip Lamantia, Madeline Gleason, William Everson, James Broughton, and Thomas Parkinson.’ Moore soon stopped publishing poetry ‘to devote himself to a career in broadcasting, as a co-founder of the first US listener-sponsored radio station, KPFA, and later as an early member of the sixth US public TV station, KQED.’ …”
PennSound: USA: Poetry (Video)

Frank O’Hara

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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