An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and the Avant-Garde 50 Years Ago

“I remember that in the spring of 1949 there was a symposium on the arts at Harvard during which a number of new works were performed including Schönberg’s Trio for Strings. My friend the poet Frank O’Hara, who was majoring in music at Harvard, went to hear it and was violently attacked for doing so by one of the young instructors in the music department, who maintained that Schönberg was literally insane. Today the same instructor would no doubt attack O’Hara for going to hear anything so academic. To paraphrase Bernard Shaw, it is the fate of some artists, and perhaps the best ones, to pass from unacceptability to acceptance without an intervening period of appreciation.

“At that time I found the avant-garde very exciting, just as the young do today, but the difference was that in 1950 there was no sure proof of the existence of the avant-garde. To experiment was to have the feeling that one was poised on some outermost brink. In other words if one wanted to depart, even moderately, from the norm, one was taking one’s life—one’s life as an artist—into one’s hands.” —From John Ashbery’s Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987 (Knopf, 1989)

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