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By Andrew Epstein

Even though it has lengthy been regular to visualize the archetypal American poet making a song a solitary "Song of Myself," a lot of the main enduring American poetry has really been preoccupied with the drama of friendship. during this lucid and soaking up learn, Andrew Epstein argues that an obsession with either the pleasures and difficulties of friendship erupts within the "New American Poetry" that emerges after the second one global conflict. through concentrating on probably the most major postmodernist American poets--the "New York college" poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and their shut modern Amiri Baraka--Beautiful Enemies finds a basic paradox on the middle of postwar American poetry and tradition: the avant-garde's dedication to individualism and nonconformity runs at once counter to its personal valorization of neighborhood and collaboration. in reality, Epstein demonstrates that the conflict among friendship and nonconformity complicates the mythical alliances solid by way of postwar poets, turns into a essential topic within the poetry they created, and leaves modern writers with a sophisticated legacy to barter. instead of easily celebrating friendship and poetic neighborhood as nurturing and encouraging, those poets signify friendship as one of those exhilarating, maddening contradiction, a domain of charm and repulsion, affinity and contention. tough either the reductive evaluations of yankee individualism and the idealized, seriously biographical celebrations of literary camaraderie one reveals in a lot serious dialogue, this booklet offers a brand new interpretation of the bizarre dynamics of yankee avant-garde poetic groups and the position of the person inside them. by means of situating his huge and revealing readings of those hugely influential poets opposed to the backdrop of chilly struggle cultural politics and in the context of yank pragmatist suggestion, Epstein uncovers the collision among radical self-reliance and the siren name of the interpersonal on the center of postwar American poetry.

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Extra resources for Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry

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One must outgrow the love that has enabled one to grow” (Emerson, 155). Yet little has been said about the heartbreaking concept of human relations enunciated in American philosophy and poetry. What does it mean for a poet like Frank O’Hara, who is often hailed as one of American poetry’s great champions of friendship and its pleasures, to admit in one of his most moving love poems, “I am always tying up / and then deciding to depart” (CP, 217)? Why would he declare that “to move is to love,” or deplore the “thrilling activities which confuse / too many, too loud / too often, crowds of intimacies and no distance” (CP, 256, 296)?

Considering Baraka in this light makes visible the vexing inter- Introduction 15 section where racial identity, politics, and the competing rhetorics of community and nonconformity that underlie postwar avant-garde poetry collide. To view the friendships and communities that are so formative to postwar American poets simply as bits of biographical background, or to see these groupings as happily insular, fixed collectives, or as somehow distinct from their work itself, is to miss a great deal. This is because, for these poets, friendship with other writers becomes not only a social or artistic springboard that leads to their own adventures as solitary poets.

This book uncovers a strain in American poetry that evokes both the power and the sorrow, the thrilling freedom and the poverty, inherent in this strange American stance: one that demands a perpetual turning away from whatever—and whomever—one has known. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate that literature, and poetry in particular, has the special ability to dramatize philosophical, theoretical problems, to expose their ambiguities and contradictions, and to chart their impact on human minds and lives.

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