The Last Avant-garde

The Last Avant-garde

The Making of the New York School of Poets

Book - 1998
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The Last Avant-Garde is a richly detailed portrait of one of the most significant movements in American arts and letters. Covering the years 1948 to 1966, the book focuses on four fast friends - John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler - the poets at the center of the New York School. They were both acolytes and catalysts. Enthralled with the bold experiments of painters like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, each came to New York filled with the ideas that would revolutionize poetry and greatly influence writers, visual artists, musicians, and composers up to the present day. Lehman brings to life the exhilarating creative ferment of the time and place, the relationship of great friendship to great art, and the powerful influence a group of visual artists, especially Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Fairfield Porter, had on the literary efforts of the New York School.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 1998
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385475426
Branch Call Number: 811.5 L523L 1998
Characteristics: 433 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

A casual history of the lives and collisions of the primary movers and shakers encompassing the New York School of Poets. Lehman's document is rich in detail and committed to the historical and cultural importance of these writers and their work.

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Sep 11, 2017

With the recent passing of John Ashbery (He was 90!), the last member of the famed and influential New York School of poets is gone. While the group often included other writers and artists, the other three were Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Schyuler, perhaps the least known of the group. David Lehman's book is both a look at the men and their milieu, as well as a close read of their poetry. It excels at both and even if you're not a fan of poetry, its' a rich literary history. Incidentally, I was led to this book by Jim Jarmusch's film "Paterson," which is about a bus driver who writes poetry.

Jan 16, 2010

For anyone interested in modern American poetry, and John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara in particular, this is an informative and critically rigorous account (thankfully lacking the dry academic style) which relates them to their place in the history of the avant-garde, to their counterparts the New York painters, and against the backdrop of what was once a culturally (as opposed to a financial) NYC. The author is also a poet who was familiar in the scene. Along the way, diverse characters such as Auden, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso pop up to illuminate this or that point, and the entire book seems organically constructed, as it trips effortlessly through its subject. A very good read which presents a case for the impossibility of any more avant-garde movements in an era (now) which has learned to co-opt quick and early any sign of anti-authoritarian stance. Joyful and sad...


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