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This article is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

The Wilder Party Mark Ford

The poets classified as belonging to the first generation of the New York School have for some time now been deemed canonical, and the work of Ashbery and O'Hara in particular features prominently in any narrative of post-War American poetry. Their heirs, however, often dubbed second-generation New York School poets, have not fared so well with academic critics, publishers, or the poetry-reading public at large. The reasons for this are complex and probed by many of the contributors to Daniel Kane's collection of essays on New York writing after the New York School. The book's title derives from some prophetic advice Bernadette Mayer gave to students taking her course at the St Mark's Poetry Project: 'Work your ass off to change the language, and don't ever get famous.'

Implicit in this counsel is the idea that poetry should not be figured as the inspired utterance of a transcendent genius, but as the collective enterprise of a band of the like-minded. It harks back more to the heady idealism of the early Surrealists than to the savvy, hedonistic connoisseurship of high and low culture that characterises much first-generation New York School poetry. In his own essay on Angel Hair magazine, which was edited by two of the group's most prominent figures, Lewis Warsh and Anne Waldman, Kane recalls the kinds of exercises favoured by St Mark's Poetry Project workshop leaders:

Everyone anonymously contributed a piece of writing, which someone else in the group ...


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