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What happens when you cross the perfervid emotionalism of Edna St. Vincent Millay, she of the candle burning at both ends, with Charles Olson’s idea, distilled out of William Carlos Williams, of a projective verse imbued with “the breathing of the man who writes” (and I suppose it is very emphatically a man who writes the poetry that Olson had in mind)? You get John Wieners, one of the youngest exemplars of “The New American Poetry” as canonized by Donald Allen in 1960. Already at twenty-four, he was depicting himself on the verge of burnout, having “come to the last defense” — though in fact he’d keep writing beautifully for decades. Almost from the beginning, Wieners knew this: “The poem / does not lie to us.” Notice how different this statement would have been as “The poem / does not lie”; it might lie, but not “to us.” He writes, “We lie under its / law, alive in the glamour of this hour.” Yes, we lie, “dark people, who carry secrets / glassed in their eyes and hide words / under the roofs of their mouth.” His intense commitment to abjection is what separates Wieners from the poets he otherwise might have seen as his peers:
Now back to New York and The Turkish Baths
which I find no fun, tho Frank O’Hara does,
and Allen Ginsberg sits in his white pajamas
and dreams of men as I do—and thinks of fame
Wieners seems to accept what might have been an establishment view of O’Hara as too amusing and too amused by life to be a really serious poet, while Ginsberg by contrast takes himself altogether too seriously (in Wieners’ eyes) to face the misery of his position as a gay man in pre-Stonewall New York. Thinking about that sent me back to Bruce Boone’s 1979 essay on O’Hara, “Gay Language as Political Praxis,” in which O’Hara’s articulation of a position within a gay community is played off against Ginsburg’s way of distancing himself from the “fairy boys” with “no religion / but the old one of cocksuckers.” Wieners, who never stopped proclaiming himself the cocksucker, neither evades nor transcends the condemnation of the straight world, but demands it: “Damned and cursed before all the world / That is what I want to be.” Strange desire. And yet it kindles the “small fires / I burn in the memory of love.”
An SFMOMA exhibition raises questions about what it means when museum board members have ties to politicians who support border wall policies.
The exhibition at the Jewish Museum delves into “degenerate” art and art made under duress as part of a thought-provoking yet diffuse exhibition.
In Philadelphia, a series of solo shows delves into the interdisciplinary practices of graduates whose work explores identity, familial bonds, political constructs, and nature’s fragility.
Despite his work’s apparent abstraction, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe insists that “I don’t invent anything, everything I do is my jungle and what is there.”
David Uzochukwu, Kennedi Carter, and Kiki Xue are among the 35 artists whose work will be displayed online and at the festival in Milan, Italy.
On November 14, join Columbia University School of the Arts for virtual information sessions with the program chair, faculty, and staff.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
To do so before they have returned the Maqdala treasures and the Benin Bronzes and the Easter Island statues and the Maori heads, before a coherent set of precepts for decolonization has been articulated, would affirm the wrong principle.
“Everybody in Mesopotamia, as far as I understand it, believed in ghosts,” said Irving Finkel, a curator of the British Museum’s Middle Eastern department.