Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry

Paperback | February 5, 2009

byAndrew Epstein

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Although it has long been commonplace to imagine the archetypal American poet singing a solitary "Song of Myself," much of the most enduring American poetry has actually been preoccupied with the drama of friendship. In this lucid and absorbing study, Andrew Epstein argues that an obsessionwith both the pleasures and problems of friendship erupts in the "New American Poetry" that emerges after the Second World War. By focusing on some of the most significant postmodernist American poets-the "New York School" poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and their close contemporary AmiriBaraka-Beautiful Enemies reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of postwar American poetry and culture: the avant-garde's commitment to individualism and nonconformity runs directly counter to its own valorization of community and collaboration. By situating his extensive and revealing readingsof these highly influential poets against the backdrop of Cold War cultural politics and within the context of American pragmatist thought, Epstein uncovers the collision between radical self-reliance and the siren call of the interpersonal at the core of postwar American poetry.

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Although it has long been commonplace to imagine the archetypal American poet singing a solitary "Song of Myself," much of the most enduring American poetry has actually been preoccupied with the drama of friendship. In this lucid and absorbing study, Andrew Epstein argues that an obsessionwith both the pleasures and problems of friend...

Andrew Epstein is Associate Professor of English at Florida State University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:February 5, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195388984

ISBN - 13:9780195388985

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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsIntroduction1. Situation the Avant-Garde in Postwar AmericaCommunity, Individualism, and Cold War Culture2. Emerson, Pragmatism, and the "New American Poetry"3. "My Force Is in Mobility"Selfhood and Friendship in Frank O'Hara's Poetry4. Growing Up with Our Brothers All AroundJohn Ashbery and the Interpersonal5. Amiri Baraka and the Poetics of Turning Away6. "Against the Speech of Friends"Baraka's White Friend Blues7. "A Rainy Wool Frankie and Johnny"O'Hara, Ashbery, and the Paradoxes of FriendshipConclusionNotesWorks CitedIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In Beautiful Enemies, Andrew Epstein offers exemplary Emersonian readings of the intricate web connecting individual talent and collective investment in the poetry and poetics of John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Amiri Baraka. Averting the Cold War myth of the individual voice in the wildernessof conformity, Epstein gives us voices in conversation and conflict, suggesting that resistance to agreement is at the heart of a pragmatist understanding of literary community." --Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania