Monash University
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Frank O’Hara’s “Second Avenue” and the Modernist Tradition

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-22, 05:41 authored by David Dick
The writing of Frank O’Hara, including his abstract epic, “Second Avenue,” emerged from a period of conflict in US poetry circles in the 1950s. In his acceptance speech for the 1960 National Book Award, Robert Lowell de-clared that there were two competing poetries in post-war America. The “cooked,” he declared, was “marvelously expert … laboriously concocted to be tasted and digested by a graduate seminar”; the “raw,” on the other hand, was “huge blood-dripping gobbets of unseasoned experience … dished up for midnight listeners.” The “cooked” included poets associated with the New Criticism and their academic contemporaries. Arguing for a rejection of “the exuberance and excess of Modernism in favor of poems that were self-contained, ironic, and dense with elaborately constructed metaphors,” they embraced T.S. Eliot’s “tradition”—that “no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone”—and complied with his theory that “the poet himself [can] have no necessary role in the poetry he writes.”


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