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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

PERSONS & PERSONISMS Frank O'Hara, Selected Poems, edited by Donald Allen (Carcanet) £18.95
John Ashbery, Flow Chart (Carcanet) £16.95

In 1951 Charles Olson proclaimed the age of objectism, 'the getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego'; eight years later, in a short and equally idiosyncratic manifesto which stands as the preface to this selection, Frank O'Hara celebrated the founding of personism, which took place 'after lunch with Leroi Jones on August 27, 1959'. What brought it into being was O'Hara's realization that 'I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem', a discovery which 'puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style'. The individual as ego, in short, is given full permission to interfere as much as it likes.

In 'Hotel Transylvanie', O'Hara playfully satirizes projective verse ('I am lyrical to a fault/I do not despair being too foolish'), converting the breathy rhythms of Olson's 'In Cold Hell, In Thicket' -

God, that man, as his acts must, as there
  is always
a thing he can do, he can raise himself, he
  raises


- into cadences in his apostrophe to the hotel bed, that embodiment of similarity in difference:

… you have only to be
as you are being, as you must be, as you
   always are, as you shall be forever …


Olson of course is searching for some quantum state, a reconciliation of point and wave, syllable and line, stasis and movement. O'Hara is more preoccupied ...


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