Beautiful enemies : friendship and postwar American poetry by Andrew Epstein

By Andrew Epstein

Even though it has lengthy been usual to visualize the archetypal American poet making a song a solitary "Song of Myself," a lot of the main enduring American poetry has truly been preoccupied with the drama of friendship. during this lucid and soaking up research, Andrew Epstein argues that an obsession with either the pleasures and difficulties of friendship erupts within the "New American Poetry" that emerges after the second one international battle. by way of concentrating on one of the most major postmodernist American poets--the "New York college" poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and their shut modern Amiri Baraka--Beautiful Enemies unearths a primary paradox on the middle of postwar American poetry and tradition: the avant-garde's dedication to individualism and nonconformity runs at once counter to its personal valorization of neighborhood and collaboration. in reality, Epstein demonstrates that the conflict among friendship and nonconformity complicates the mythical alliances cast by means of postwar poets, turns into a main subject matter within the poetry they created, and leaves modern writers with a classy legacy to barter. instead of easily celebrating friendship and poetic group as nurturing and encouraging, those poets signify friendship as one of those exhilarating, maddening contradiction, a website of charm and repulsion, affinity and rivalry.

hard either the reductive evaluations of yankee individualism and the idealized, seriously biographical celebrations of literary camaraderie one reveals in a lot serious dialogue, this booklet offers a brand new interpretation of the odd dynamics of yankee avant-garde poetic groups and the function of the person inside of them. by means of situating his vast and revealing readings of those hugely influential poets opposed to the backdrop of chilly struggle cultural politics and in the context of yankee pragmatist notion, Epstein uncovers the collision among radical self-reliance and the siren name of the interpersonal on the middle of postwar American poetry

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Can you work toward a collective social good, imagine a community, or enact a politics? Introduction 25 By helping us think through such questions, the poets at the center of Beautiful Enemies highlight the ramifications, both good and ill, personal and social, of the profoundly American exaltation of process and movement and its seeming incompatibility with bedrock ideals of friendship and democratic community. It may be the case that, as poet Ann Lauterbach has observed, “the American notion of possibility was founded on an ideal of mobility and transition,” but, as we will see, O’Hara, Ashbery, and Baraka confront the blend of exhilaration and crisis built into this unsettling view of the world (101).

Why do we find a poetics of friendship to be so prevalent at this moment in the development of American poetry, and what intellectual, cultural, and philosophical contexts can help us understand the shape it takes and its main points of contention? Has the tendency by poets and critics alike to view the avant-garde as a collective formation obscured the tension between movement and individual that supplies the poetry with so much of its complexity and force? As I mentioned in my introduction, some critics have recently been more rigorously examining the construction of such communities and their relationship to poetry.

How does one found a community on the basis of a vision of the self and friendship in which competition, contention, and difference are as important as harmony and unity? In which the anxious struggle to be distinctive from one’s peers and from previous incarnations of oneself undermines any simplistic notion of the pleasures of camaraderie and collaboration? What happens to the idealistic endorsement of group solidarity when one is constitutionally unwilling to stand still or view the self as a unified, stable entity?

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