On 3 September 1959, Frank OHara put the finishing touches to a short piece supposedly explaining his own style of poetry. First published in Yugen 7, a journal, in 1961, Personism: A Manifesto was very provocative, with OHaras trademark cheeky charm, compressed ideas and multiple references. He began with his own work, saying that Everything is in the poems, but that he was writing because one of his fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine cant be got at one reading. He added that he doesnt use elaborately sounded structures; that he hates Vachel Lindsey (died 1931, an American bard poet who sang his work); and doesnt like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. In the first short paragraph of his manifesto, Hara has put to one side all the technical apparatus of poetry as most people might know it. But what O Hara doesnt really do is to explain what he really means by Personism. OHara moves on to the reception of his work, using amusing analogies. For him, it doesnt matter whether people get it or that it improves them. Improves them for what? Too many poets act like a middle aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). We are not so far removed from the 1950s/1960s to recognize OHaras analogy as representing the argument that poetry might have become stodgy and unhealthy. So what is Personism? In order to answer his, a quick look at the time OHara lives in is in order.
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