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Related Prose
The Artists & Poets of the New York School
Something Wonderful May Happen: A New York School Documentary
Books Noted
James Schuyler, Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems
Frank O'Hara: A Poet among Painters
Groundbreaking Book: Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara (1964)
Groundbreaking Book: Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery (1975)
Groundbreaking Book: The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan (1964)
Joe Brainard: "I Remember"
Poetry Landmark: The White Horse Tavern in New York City
The Poetry Years [excerpt]
by Phillip Lopate
Velvet Underground: The New York City Punk-Rock Poets
Making It Sweet Again: On Manifestos by Olson, O'Hara, and Bernstein
by Cort Day
Related Authors
Alice Notley
Alice Notley
Born on November 8, 1945, Alice Notley is the author of many collections of verse and the recipient of the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize...
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Anne Waldman
Anne Waldman
A prominent figure in the beat poetry generation, Anne Waldman, was born in Millville, New Jersey, on April 2, 1945...
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Barbara Guest
Barbara Guest
The author of numerous collections of poetry, Barbara Guest was predominantly a writer of the New York School...
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Frank O'Hara
Frank O'Hara
Born in 1926, Frank O'Hara was one of the most distinguished members of the New York School of poets...
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A Brief Guide to the New York School


The New York School of poetry began around 1960 in New York City and included poets such as John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara. Heavily influenced by surrealism and modernism, the poetry of the New York School was serious but also ironic, and incorporated an urban sensibility into much of the work. An excerpt from Ashbery’s poem, "My Philsophy of Life" demonstrates this attitude:

Just when I thought there wasn't room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea--
call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones?

Abstract expressionist art was also a major influence, and the New York School poets had strong artistic and personal relationships with artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning. Both O'Hara and James Schuyler worked at the Museum of Modern Art, and Guest, Ashbery, and Schuyler were critics for Art News. O'Hara also took inspiration from artists, entitling two poems "Joseph Cornell" and "On Seeing Larry Rivers." O'Hara's poem "Why I am Not a Painter" includes the lines "I am not a painter, I am a poet. / Why? I think I would rather be / a painter, but I am not."

A second generation of New York School poets arose during the 1960s and included Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, and Joe Brainard. These poets were also influenced by art and their work contained much of the same humour and collaborative spirit. Their scene grew up around downtown New York and was associated with the Poetry Project at St Mark's Church, a poetry organization started in the mid 1960s.

The New York School continues to influence poets writing today. Recently published books such as Daniel Kane's All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s and David Lehman's The Last-Avant Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets are important histories of this poetic movement that still captures readers nearly fifty years later.

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