27 jun. 2007

Maybe you never thought about in this particular way, but the surrealism of the New York school isn't really surrealist. It doesn't put faith in the unconscious, irrational mind. New York school poetry is all about being attentive, hyperconscious of reality. It's zany and kind of fun, not quite as vatic and self-important. It doesn't exalt dreaming at the expense of everyday reality.

When O'Hara gets vatic and oracular, you can tell he's not taking himself too seriously. As in "Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets." He knows he's not Shelley, but he allows himself to go "purple" anyway.

Of course, this doesn't prevent Auden from distrusting this aspect of Ashbery (see preface for Some Trees). Or Elizabeth Bishop complaining in a letter that O'Hara is too surrealist.

Then too you notice the preference for modern French poets who come just before surrealism. Reverdy, Apollinaire. Or those who come after, like Michel Deguy. When Kenneth Koch describes Deguy in a brief essay, he could be describing his own poetry. How it includes a lot, doesn't want to be tied down to a narrow surrealist dependence on the unconscious mind as source of sacred truth.


There's a new Góngora translation out from the University of Chicago Press. Apparently I think it's good, because I have a blurb on the dust-jacket, which I wrote a few months ago and promptly forgot about until someone reminded me of it today. It's an excellent blurb that will convince you to buy this book.

2 comentarios:

Ray Davis dijo...

It's funny, I intended to compare-and-contrast Frank O'Hara surrealism with James Wright surrealism to make my recent serialized essay less crappy, but then I couldn't find any really convincing examples of Wright's surreal influences -- just isolated "now for the epiphany" lines, and that made the exercise seem too pro forma to be worth the effort, though I guess I would've if I'd been lecturing.

Jonathan dijo...

You're right, Wright doesn't really write surrealism. It's more in the vatic tone that he has some kinship with surrealism, not very much at all in the imagery. That is, Wright's tone is one interpretation of what a surrealist tone might sound like.