The Last Avant-garde

The Last Avant-garde

The Making of the New York School of Poets

Book - 1998
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Greenwich Village, New York, circa 1951. Every night, at a rundown tavern with a magnificent bar called the Cedar Tavern, an extraordinary group of painters, writers, poets, and hangers-on arrive to drink, argue, tell jokes, fight, start affairs, and bang out a powerful new aesthetic. Their style is playful, irreverent, tradition-shattering, and brilliant. Out of these friendships, and these conversations, will come the works of art and poetry that will define New York City as the capital of world culture--abstract expressionism and the New York School of Poetry. A richly detailed portrait of one of the great movements in American arts and letters, The Last Avant Garde covers the years 1948-1966 and focuses on four fast friends--the poets Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch. Lehman brings to vivid life the extraordinary creative ferment of the time and place, the relationship of great friendship to great art, and the powerful influence that a group of visual artists--especially Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Fairfield Porter--had on the literary efforts of the New York School. The book will be both a definitive and lively view of a quintessentially American aesthetic and an exploration of the dynamics of creativity.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c1998
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385475426
Branch Call Number: 811.5 L523L 1998
Characteristics: 433 p. : ill. [16] p. of plates ; 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.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

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...


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top