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This report is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

Letter from New York Rachel Hadas

Let it be understood that any account of the New York literary events (chiefly poetry) I attended in the fall of '93 represents only a fraction of the goings-on about town. The pace of literary life in Manhattan is such that to get to the PEN Writers for Sarajevo benefit (David Rieff, Susan Sontag, Mary Gordon, Tony Kushner, and a score or so of others) will probably mean you miss the bard from out of town whose visit was scheduled months earlier. If I fail to describe the Scandinavian Poetry Festival at Cooper Union or the Poet Laureates' group reading at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, its not because of any hidden agenda; I simply happened to miss those events.

Sir Stephen Spender sagely noted once that the Auden group never met as a group. Similarly, the essential fact to keep in mind about New York literary life is that there is really no such thing. This isn't to say that from reading to reception to party certain faces don't recur; it's simply to emphasize that no one event or even series epitomizes the literary season. It's possible, of course, to carve out aesthetic domins along geographical lines- we have so called uptown and Downtown music, so why not poetry? But any such lines of cleavage are as rigid and reductive as the tirelessly applied terms of formalism, neo-formalism, expansionism, and so on - labels over which further stickers are nowbeingplas-tered, this time denoting gender, ...


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