The Moorman Symposium starts tomorrow. To prepare for the panel discussion on New York School poetry, I thought it would be good to sit our visiting poets -- Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, David Lehman, David Kirby and Barbara Hamby -- down with New York School poets -- John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, and James Schuyler -- for an informal Q & A.
In this mock-panel, questions found in New York School poets' work are answered with lines from contemporary poets. This conversation is so seamless you wouldn't know that decades, wars, and multiple presidents all existed between the questions and replies!
*special thanks to my New York School studying peers Nicholas Benca, Jennifer Jacob, and Tracie Dawson for help "facilitating" this Q&A
O'Hara: "Am I looking handsome?"
Kirby: “if not handsome, beau-laid, / as the French say, or handsome-ugly, as we all are / in our way.”
Schuyler: “‘What are the questions you wish to ask?’”
Duhamel: “When James Taylor and Carly Simon / broke up, I was shocked. Taylor’s drug use or not, / couldn’t they work it out? [...] How could they part having written all those love songs? And how could they go on / singing those love songs after the divorce?”
Ashbery: "What can we achieve, aspiring? And what, aspiring can we achieve?"
Hamby: "Well, we're in hell, and like Persephone fighting dark Hades, it's a waste of time."
Koch: "How many people I have drunk tea or coffee with / And thought about the boiling water hardly at all, just / waiting for it to boil / So there could be coffee or chocolate or tea. And then / what?"
Lehman: “The dog walked in and peed on the carpet and the chaplain’s wife / Said, ‘Oh, Rosebud, you’re being boring.’ / Boring meant something other than boring.”
O'Hara: "Dear god, I think that iron gate I put up as a weather vane is creaking. An angel must be arriving. Who do you suppose it could be?"
Collins: "I am the dog you put to sleep / as you like to call the needle of oblivion / come back to tell you this one simple thing: / I never liked you - not one bit."
Padgett: "I don’t know anything about hemorrhoids / Such as if it hurts to sit when you have them / If so I must not have them / Because it doesn’t hurt me to sit/ I probably sit about 8/15 of my life"
Ashbery: "Meanwhile what am I going to do?"
Hamby: “Pass me the beer and the goddamned pool cue, / Romeo.”
Koch: "Haven't I Lost that sweet easy knack I had last week, Last month, last year, last decade, which pleased everyone And especially pleased me?"
Lehman: “...do you recall/ when I visited Cambridge/ I left you a note// with the Clare porter./ The world is charged (I wrote) with / the grandeur of you!”
Schuyler: “Are you a larch?”
Collins: “It might interest you to know, / speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world, that I am the sound of rain on the roof. // I also happen to be the shooting star, / the evening paper blowing down an alley, and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.”
O'Hara: "Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French?"
Duhamel: “To tell you the truth, / it’s easier to be blonde because the gray blends in, / just the way I’ve always wanted to blend in and not.”
Hamby: “...testosterone run amok, / or so I’m thinking here from my present perch
Ashbery: "Then what unholy bridegroom / did the Aquarian foretell? / Or was such lively intelligence / only the breath of hell?"
Kirby: “Holy moly-- / the Antichrist!”
Koch: "The connection here is how serious / is it for the tree / To have its arms wave (its branches)? How did it ever get such flexibility / In the first place?"
Collins: "The leafless branches against the sky / will not save anyone from the void ahead,”
Koch: "Almost any amount of time suffices to be a 'minor poet' / Once you have mastered a certain amount of the craft / For writing a poem, but I do not see the good of minor poetry, / Like going to the Tour d'Argent to get dinner for your / dog, / Or 'almost' being friends with someone, or hanging / around but not attending a school, / Or being a nurse's aid for the rest of your life after / getting a degree in medicine, / What is the point of it?"
Kirby: “My psychodynamic electrohelmet / would have explained everything, but I never got / to use it.”