Interrogating Culture: Critical Hermeneutics in the Poetry of Frank O'Hara

Mark Tursi

 Interrogating Culture: Critical Hermeneutics in the Poetry of Frank O'Hara The poetry of Frank O'Hara's reveals a heightened awareness of the aesthetic and ephemeral nature of ordinary life, and thereby dismantles the traditional dichotomy between art and life. His multivalent poetry reveals that ideologies and values, and the manifestation of these in terms of dominant categories and assumptions (especially gender related), are not simply accessible and consistent, but that both are always constructed and created in regard to various cultural codes. In other words, O'Hara's writing is a recognition that history, culture, beauty, and knowledge are only accessible through representation and interpretation. His poetry actively deconstructs traditional ideological and aesthetic assumptions, both in literature and society, and characteristically rejects any ideology that represses difference.

O'Hara's poetry levels the 'significant' with the mundane, (and thereby) rejects traditional modes of poetic transcendence" (Lowney 245), thus providing the reader with a new hermeneutics that is simultaneously a critique of culture and a catalogue of beauty in terms of cultural history and the particular discursive community in which O'Hara wrote. His writing "crushes" the quotidian into the framework of poetic discourse and therefore problematizes traditional conceptions of beauty and art. However, by collapsing these distinctions, the intent is not a rejection of difference, but rather, just the opposite; his poetry reveals an exploration of difference and celebration of differance. O'Hara avoids abstraction in a way that is akin to a deconstructive "lens" through which the poet views and interprets experience, where the events of his life become the "action" and the subject of the poems, as well as the "art" of the poetry. In other words, the notion of beauty is in the very experience of experiencing; a notion that is perhaps most reminiscent of Whitman, but with a wholly different approach; i.e. a critical and deconstructive, as well as celebratory (or Whitmanesque, so to speak).

The meaning of his poetry (which is intentionally indeterminate) resides in unintended meaning and the fractured syntactic structure of thought that is somehow linked to the 'actual.' The result is a poetry that manifests a variety of modes that call into question the ability to 'represent' anything, and thus reveals an interpenetration of deconstructive and critical perspectives that is equivalent to the creation of a new hermeneutics. I will examine his more accessible poems, which are often referred to as the "I do this, I do that poems," and his other more complex poems referred to by John Ashbery as "Frank's French Zen Period." I hope to increase critical awareness regarding the more obfuscate side of O'Hara's poetic sensibility and stylistic complexity, and demonstrate that the diversity and 'radical' aspect of O'Hara's expansive oeuvre are in fact the most important feature of his writing.

O'Hara is one of the quintessential forefathers to American Postmodern poetics in his subversive approach to modernist aesthetics, and his humorous treatment of meaning and "the meaningful." He calls into question, not only interpretation and representation, but also, the notion of "the importance of importance." He accomplishes this in a variety of ways: 1) deconstructing conventional notions of beauty, 2) aestheticizing the quotidian, 3) problemitizing dominant paradigms, 4) critiquing culture, and the literature that describes it, via a subversion of conventional and traditional notions of significance and signification, and through use of parody and satire, and finally, 5) through the use of camp, which creates a humorous, yet critical investigation of representation and various interpretations of culture/human experience. Structurally, O'Hara explores both symbolist poetics and French Surrealism, but exposes the limits of both.

Moreover, the text itself, in O'Hara's poetry, becomes the 'site' of signification. The text absorbs memory, experience and art into one codified, though unstable textual site. Through fragmentation of thought, feeling, and emotion juxtaposed with events, dialogue and action, which are most often actual events, though sometimes revealed in an oneiric and often hallucinatory landscape, O'Hara accomplishes the difficult task of dismantling dominant ideological assumptions about literature and human existence, and exposing the limitations of interpretation and representation. Essentially, O'Hara's poetry can be seen as the destruction and construction of a new hermeneutics, as opposed to a codified or stable ideology. O'Hara writes the following in Personism: A Manifesto:

While I was writing it (a poem) I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It's a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. (Poems 499 )
Although this is quite obviously intended to be humorous, it does, to some degree, evoke the words of Michele Foucault, who, ten years later in 1969 wrote the following: "What is an author?" thereby problematizing the notion of author and the supposed "ownership" of a text. Foucault continues:
All discourses, whatever their status, form, value, and whatever the treatment to which they will be subjected, would then develop in the anonymity of a murmur. We would no longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse? Instead, there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking? (Foucault 120-1)
O'Hara is participating in a similar investigation of what it means to be an author, and the consequent dismantling of literary tradition and dominant philosophical paradigms. He introduces and questions the way in which texts and authors interpret reality and construct notions of 'the self' by and through language and texts. Many readers and critics refer to O'Hara as typically avante-garde. Peter Bürger suggests that, "avant-garde art opposes the bourgeois model of consciousness by attempting to close the gap between art and life. . . (it is) an art no longer distinct from the praxis of life but wholly absorbed in it . . .” O'Hara's poetry epitomizes Burger's assessment. However, it seems inadequate to label O'Hara simply avante-garde. His poetry consistently resists mainstream ideology, and his marginality and alienation from “the mainstream,” which seems to be a result of a variety of factors including his philosophy, homosexuality, and lifestyle, is revealed in a poetry that is more conscious of itself as writerly, as language, and as such renews art as a part of life, unable to be dichotomized from the experience and imagination which it emerges from. O'Hara's poetry has a sense of urgency and immediacy, spontaneity and antiformalism, which speaks in a directness of everyday experience and ordinary colloquial language. For example, in one of his many poems titled Poem, he writes the following:
Last night I said "I'm
sick." Today is very windy.
The curtains are pulled
back but the sun goes

 somewhere else. I've
seen all the movies. I
think I'm going to cry.
Yes. To kill time. (Poems 40)

Again, he writes in colloquial speech that rejects the 'heightened' language of formal poetry, as well as the intellectual and symbolist language of some of the poets of 'High Modernism,' i.e. TS Eliot. The influence of Williams and Auden are clearly manifest in many of O'Hara's early poems such as this one. O'Hara, on the heels of Pound, clearly explores life and art entirely in "fear of abastraction." In Personism, for instance he writes the following:
Abstraction in poetry, which Allen [Ginsberg] recently commented on in It Is, is intriguing. I think it appears mostly in the minute particulars where decision is necessary. Abstraction (in poetry, not in painting) involves personal removal by the poet. For instance, the decision involved in the choice between "the nostalgia of the infinite" and "the nostalgia for the infinite" defines an attitude towards degree of abstraction. The nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degreee of abstraction, removal, and negative capability (as in Keats and Mallarme). (Poems 498-9)
O'Hara's attempt to dismantle dominant ideologies about life and dominant assumptions about art, is, in a sense, a deconstructive mode. In other words, by working within the realm of the ordinary, with the language that we all think, act, construct and communicate with, but somehow outside of convention (by virtue of its slang and colloquialism and therefore critical of it), O'Hara finds and reveals the extraordinary. He is eccentric, yet entirely common; he is outside of 'approved' language, yet completely immersed in the language of everyday life. This is not to suggest that deconstruction is some kind of methodology, which is used by O'Hara, but rather that he actively engages in an investigation of language, culture and reality that parallels (and possibly precedes and foreshadows) Foucauldian-analysis and Derridean-deconstruction. In a sense, O'Hara seems to wear a similar "lens" that correlates to ideas similarly put forth in contemporary literary criticism that undermines and subverts metaphor, meaning, and originary/natural conceptions of reality. For example, in another poem, titled Poem, he writes the following:
All the mirrors in the world
don't help, nor am I moved

by the calm emergence of my
image in the rain, it is not

I who appears or imagines. See,
if you can, if you can make

the unpleasant trip, the
house where shadows of my own

childhood are watered and forced
like overgrown blugeons, you

must look, for I cannot. I
cannot face that fearful usage (Poems 39)

O'Hara's poetry embraces pluralism and decenters authority. He clearly recognizes an exhaustion of art and words, but still finds meaning (though uncertain and unstable as it may be) in the “empty sign” or material that makes up his poetry. O’Hara’s Personism, suggesting life for art’s sake, anti-personal and anti-intimate, yet entirely and wholly experiential, and having “everything to do with love” is at the center of his postmodern sensibility. O'Hara's realm is popular culture and his medium is the language that constructs that culture. By somehow working simultaneously within it, and outside of it, he produces a new poetics that is conscious of itself as art, but at the same time adamantly human.

O'Hara's poetry is an intimate yell 1 with his closest friends, with the world of poets, and with every reader who barely knows his name. Ashbery suggests that O'Hara differs from other poets in the New York School, in that he is "almost exclusively autobiographical" (Ashbery X). However, I would add, that although he is telling his story, or someone else's story, he seems to exhibit few elements of what is commonly regarded as "confessional", especially in poetry. He is a master of the plain and simple in life, while at the same time approaches the extraordinary, as revealed not only in an oneiric sense, but in his more accessible poems as well. For example, in the poem Today, he demonstrates this very notion:

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about
still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They're strong as rocks. (Poems 15)
Small day to day details appear in his poetry for their own sake, as well as to investigate what is important, meaningful, and "worthy of poetry." O'Hara's poems are a record of his life in New York, while at the same time seem to transcend experience. That is, nothing is more worthy of a poem than anything else, and everything is subject to a deconstruction of meaning and a new critical lens by which "things" and ideas can be interpreted. By making the "day to day" events and happenings phenomena for poetry, extraordinary or (un)extraordinary, and by writing in very accessible, colloquial language, O'Hara manages not to privilege anything. In Personal Poem, a typical example of this, he writes the following:
We go eat some fish and some ale it's
cool but crowded we don't like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don't like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don't want to be in the poets' walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so (Poems 335)
A series of opinions or even reviews of Trilling, James, Melville, written in an off-handed manner similar to Dorothy Parker, O'Hara, shrinks the pillars of the literati by entering them into the same 'site' as hard had jobs and the millions of other San Francisco residents. Like no other poet, he makes the seemingly mundane, day to day, conversations, images, behavior, and activities something that are worth not only art, but something to keep us living, day in and day out. In a statement for The New American Poetry, O'Hara writes, "I am mainly preoccupied with the world as I experience it, and at times when I would rather be dead the thought that I could never write another poem has so far stopped me. I think this is an ignoble attitude. I would rather die for love, but I haven't." (Poems 500) In the simplicity of daily things, actions and interactions, O'Hara finds beauty, solace, despair, truth, anguish, and love, but, again, in a form which remains 'consistently inconsistent' (sic Aristotle). "Lunch is as important as love," to O'Hara, suggests Ashbery.  Kenneth Koch has similar sentiments when he writes the following about O'Hara, "You get the feeling, reading Frank O'Hara, that anything and everything you think or see or feel can be put in a poem and it will work out right. He seems to write from the middle of all these things, before they have been divided into subjects and ideas, while they are still a part of ordinary unsorted-out days."

O'Hara's poems sound so much like conversation that you cannot help but be engaged. What is also interesting, in Koch's assessment, is the idea of writing "in the middle" of things. O'Hara is interested, in a Derridean sense, in that which exists between the meaning of words and the word itself, between word and word, and finally between sign and signified. His poetry is a provocation for this reason; his words are like the everyday rambling mind, i.e. existing without cognition of the differences that create the words as they are being spoken/written, but are produced nonetheless, and with a consistent voice that seems to belong in every moment, space and gesture it occupies. O'Hara's poems are controlled distraction or conscious digression.

 In O'Hara's work, the colloquial expression in his language and the necessity and beauty of everyday experience clashes head-on with surrealism. This creates an incredible tension that in the words of John Ashbery is a poetry that is "like a bag into which anything is dumped and ends up belonging there" (Ashbery X). In poems such as Easter the reader is confronted with an uncomfortable and difficult pleasure that is disturbingly simple, commonplace, and accessible, yet surreal, oneiric, and incomprehensible all at the same time. He writes:

When the world strips down and rouges up
like a mattress's teeth brushed by love's bristling sun
a marvelous heart tiresomely got up in brisk bold stares
when those trappings fart at the feet of the stars
a self-coral serpent wrapped round an arms with no jujubes
without swish
without camp
floods of crocodile piss and pleasures of driving
shadows of prairie pricks dancing
of the roses of Pennsylvania looking in eyes noses and ears
those windows at the head of science. (Poems 97)
In this poem, O'Hara strips down to the basics --- i.e. the naked 'bodies' --- beyond 'style,' 'surfaces,' 'disguises,' and creates a dreamlike context and poses the question, "what is fact?" or perhaps more correctly, "How far can fact go?" As Hazel Smith suggests, O'Hara simultaneously deconstructs and re-constructs. He is situated between that which propels the reader toward a disintegration of meaning, yet towards the possibility of other meanings (Smith 81). O'Hara is somehow "between signification and its breakdown, absence and presence, representation and abstraction, the transcendental and the momentary" (Smith 81). O'Hara shows us that everyday human existence is just as much of a phenomenon as is mortality, love, despair, insanity, and joy. His conversational style has an often disorderly shift in time and space and therefore often creates a sort of dreamlike displacement. Ashbery calls this O'Hara's "home-grown Surrealism," i.e. it derives not from random abstraction, but rather, from observation.

 Another one of O'Hara's "home-grown surrealist poems," is Second Avenue, which Marjorie Perloff refers to as "his most Byzantine and difficult poem(s)" (Perloff 69). This poem is certainly obfuscate, but it is precisely this obfuscation that makes it most interesting. The poem is written in memory of Vladimir Mayakovsky, though interestingly was originally dedicated to the Abstract Expressionist painter, Willem de Kooning. This, in itself, is extremely revealing. His "automatic writing" and day to day language, seeming, in part to be the influence of Mayakovsky, and certainly his writing from experience, are intermingled with the intensely subconscious connections seen in abstract expressionist paintings, and the surreal, hallucinatory juxtapositions of the French Surrealists. "In "Notes on Second Avenue," apparently sent to the editor of a literary magazine in 1953, he insists that the 'philosophical reduction of reality to a dealable-with system . . . distorts life,' that the meaning of the poem can't be paraphrased, but then, evidently recognizing the obstacles in the reader's path, he does an about-face and proceeds to explain certain passages" (Perloff 69). His explanations come as no surprise: they describe "bits and pieces" of his own life and the life of his friends. But, his problem with describing these, and his obvious gesture toward a surrealist, anti-symbolic and essentially deconstructive mode dismantles traditional conceptions of representation. By "obfuscating" meaning, he is not merely being "tricky" or simply confusing the reader for the sake of establishing a new poetics that rejects symbolism and metaphor, as well as perhaps pointing out various limitations of each (i.e. symbolism and surrealism), but rather, he accomplishes much more than that. O'Hara, in the spirit of a very typical postmodernist, borrows and re-shapes these poetic and literary sensibilities, and the chaotic reality that they attempt to describe; i.e. he is being impressionistic, abstract, surreal, symbolic, anti-symbolic, anti-surreal and deconstructive at the same time.

Gregory W. Bredbeck evokes Roland Barthe's idea of jouissance in regard to O'Hara's poetry, and suggests the following:

The binaries of agent and object, of passive and active, of jouissance and reserve that Barthes polarizes are here collapsed in the text. The "site of jouissance" that effaces materiality is, for O'Hara, the text itself. Barthes's text lies passively beneath jouissance like women in the missionary position, but O'Hara's "cruises" and "does" and "is done," both tabula rasa and stylus. The divisions dissolve, for, as O'Hara tells us, "everything is in the poems (Poems 498). The text, now neither a veil that obfuscates and privileges "meaning" or "truth" nor a tissue on which are drawn the mappings of homosocial fantasy, is, rather, material intercourse. For Barthes, the text is a site; for O'Hara, the text is a trick 2."
O'Hara's trick, in a Derridean sense, problemitizes representation and the entire issue of the origins of meaning, and, in fact, any concept of the originary. Jouissance has no exact translation in English, and I find Bredbeck's choice to opt for Barthes' translator, Richard Miller's word, "bliss or body/location of bliss" seems a bit 'off-target.' Barthes' original term conveys more connotations of sexual climax, play, enjoyment and possession. In a sense, joussance is the seam between language and silence, between culture and its destruction, and is manifest throughout the poems of O'Hara as a site of textual eroticism. Barthes suggests that neither culture, nor it's destruction is erotic, but that the seam betwen them is necessarily so. It is this seam or gap that O'Hara exploits so skillfully. How does he do this? Back, finally, to Second Avenue:
This thoroughness whose traditions have become so reflective,
your distinction is merely a quill at the bottom of the sea
tracing forever the fabulous alarms of the mute
so that in the limpid tosses of your violet dinginess
a pus appears and lingers like a groan from the collar
of a reproachful tree whose needles are tired of howling.
One distinguishes merely the newspapers of a sediment,
since going underground is like discovering something in
your navel that has an odor and is able to fly away.
I must bitterly reassure the resurgence of your complaints
for you, like all heretics, penetrate my glacial immodesty,
and I am a nun trembling before the microphone . . .

Is it a triumph? and are the lightnings of movedness
and abysmal elevation cantankerous filaments
of a larger faint-heartedness like loving summer? You,
accepting always the poisonous sting of the spine,
its golden efflorescence of nature which is distrustful . . . (Poems 139-140)

The poem suggests that not only is there no universal or transcendental signifier, but that any moment of illumination, memory, or experience that seems to provide meaning is, always and already, changing and transitory. Metaphor resists meaning and so too does our own consciousness, which seems, according to O'Hara, a repository or container for "feeling" and "memory." This, in turn resists any stable or unified sense of interpretation and representation, as in archetypical French Surrealism (such as Breton's Free Union 3).Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger However, O'Hara's homegrown-surrealism is not based on a "superior reality" that is somehow outside of actual experience and completely immersed in the "psyche," as is in Breton and the French Surrealists, but rather in the "surreal" atmosphere of human experience that is always happening around and within in us. He is similarly interested in the manifestation of "neglected associations" which do dismantle other, perhaps contradictory or manipulative 4, "psychic mechanisms," but not in a way that privileges one over another.

Moreover, Bredbeck's notion of a "trick" can be regarded as, in Lyotard's terms, a putting forward of "the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable" (Lyotard 81). In other words, the language itself is a "prescence" and exists in constant play with the meaning that it may or may not be attached to. Meaning seems to surface, then dissapear and sumberge below the obscurity of association (personal, symbolic or otherwise) or dis-association --- we never quite know.

O'Hara juxtaposes a dense 'psychic' landscape with a tumultuous and disjointed physical reality that often becomes hallucinatory. For example, in Second Avenue, he writes.: "1 Except that you react like electricity to a chunk of cloth,/it will disappear like an ape at night. 2 Before eating/there was a closing of retina against retina, and ice,/telephone wires! was knotted, spelling out farce/which is germane to lust." (Poems 144). However, as Hazel Smith suggests, O'Hara exposes the limits of surrealism, while participating in it. She writes:

For despite the disparateness of the images they nearly all contain bodily parts or functions. Although these form new conjunctions, a strong impression of physical activity come across which dominates the poem: all the bodily and natural parts are involved in compulsive dynamic activity which explicitly or implicitly suggests sexual and excretory activity. Thus a perverse unity arises, which is contrary to the project of surrealism and is akin to the unity of symbolism, in that it suggests the possibility of any overall but absent signified. (Smith 80 5)
In other words, he participates in surrealism, while exposing its limitations, and creates symbolic order, while also drawing attention to the instability and uncertainty of that very gesture, thereby undermining the whole project! The result is, as Ashbery states, "a difficult pleasure." However, this is precisely what makes these poems most interesting: O'Hara pushes the boundaries of his own poems, and makes the reader consider what poetry is, and in fact, what human experience is. O'Hara suggests that everything is always an interpretation; nothing can be certain, or stable, since meaning itself is ultimately subject to interpretation, which is already always in place,  transitory and unstable. The poem and the objects in the poem are less an object (or well-wrought urn) than they are a system of words, an interpretive mode, and a sensibility in action. O'Hara elucidates a similar point, again in a statement to The New American Poetry: "It may be that poetry makes life's nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time." (Poems 500) There simply is no exclusive formula here to the endeavor of poetry or to the endeavor of human existence.

 One of the most intriguing and perhaps enjoyable aspects to investigate in the poetry of O'Hara with regard to modes of deconstruction and cultural criticism is the aspect of camp, which is almost ubiquitous to his work. The issue of camp is not simply a trope in O'Hara's poetry, but more significantly it is a sensibility. Therefore, it seems necessary to define the term and attempt to narrow it's multifarious uses, but this in itself is a difficult task, as Bredbeck suggests: "Camp is like the nominalists' flatus vocus, an empty, universal term. It functions as all parts of speech, all parts of a sentence: verb, noun, adjective, adverb; subject, object, modifier . . . Defining camp is paradoxical, for the sign is signified by its precedence to determination" (Bredbeck 276). He continues to suggest that the importance of camp, especially in regard to O'Hara's poetry, is not so much a definition, but rather, is its function. According to Bredbeck, one of the defining elements of camp is not its content but its "signifying strategy." He writes the following regarding camp, and again, in reference to O'Hara's trick:

. . . the ability to collapse the depth of field and sign, to question the reserve of truth heterosexual language implies, to make the sign "mean" primarily in the present tense. The camp statement, then, is one that inverses the traditional dynamics of language. For while in conventional semiotics the sign makes meaning by placing an utterance within a recognizable history or tradition of signification, camp uses signs to invoke histories and create meanings through a jarring distance between these histories and the current context. The present makes sense of the past, not vice versa.

 Like the signifying clone, who exposes an erotic potentiality preceding phallocentricsm, camp uncovers the absolute contingency repressed in signifiers. Camp becomes, in a homosexual community, a "cruisy" of Saussure's assertion that there is no natural meaning, only conventional meaning. Camp enacts discursively the principles the signifying clone enacts socially. Energized by the double eroticism that makes the clone, O'Hara's poetics - his trick - lends itself to, and provides the terms for, a semiotic analysis across the dynamic of camp. (Bredbeck 276)

O'Hara sets up expectations for the reader - - - semiotically, syntactically and stylistically - - and then subverts them through the "strategy" of camp (i.e. his trick). Camp allows O'Hara to collapse normative signification, and standard linguistic or cultural associations recognizable in the current phallo-logocentric language system supported by history and contemporary culture. In a sense, camp can only be contextual; i.e. there exists nothing but the referential. In Poem (The eager note on my door), he surprises the reader by turning expectations into difficult associations, and then drastically shifting from a very playful diction to a very disturbing image. He writes:
The eager note on my door said "Call me,
call when you get in!" so I quickly threw
a few tangerines into my overnight bag,
straightened my eyelids and shoulders, and

headed straight for the door. It was autumn
by the time I got around the corner . . .
          And he was
there in the hall, flat on a sheet of blood that
ran down the stairs. I did appreciate it. There are few
hosts who so thoroughly prepare to greet a guest
only casually invited, and that several months ago. (Poems 14)

Even the playful surprise of "tangerines" is undermined by the unexpected and disturbing end of the poem. The tension that O'Hara creates is a sort of surrealistic gesture at black humor. The campy line, "straightened my eyeballs and shoulders" is enough to sustain the delightfulness of kitsch in an anti-symbolic gesture, but the ending is so disturbing, that the reader is shocked out of the "campy" and surreal atmosphere that the beginning of the poem sets-up.

The sign of camp is subsumed by the context it emerges from and finds itself immersed in; there is no identifiable "natural" referent in camp, suggests Bredbeck. Commercial Variations seems to epitomize the ability of camp in O'Hara's work to sustain a myriad of "campy" effects on representation and the consequent dismantling of the "supposed" or "apparent" meaning involved.

Andrew Ross examines the use of camp, as expressed by Susan Sontag and Mark Booth, as an anti-intellectual endeavor, intended to subvert intellectualism and dominant assumptions regarding beauty. He writes, "Unlike the traditional intellectual, whose function is to legitimize the cultural power of ruling interests, or the organic intellectual, who promotes the interests of a rising class, the marginal, or camp intellectual expresses his impotence as the dominated fraction of a ruling bloc at the same time as he distances himself from the conventional morality and taste of the ascendant middle class" (Ross 146-7). The camp intellectual, or even more "campy," the camp poet is "committed to the marginal with a commitment greater than the marginal merits" (Ross 146). Camp certainly establishes a sort of critical humor, while at the same time jettisons the moral and aesthetic paradigms of the almost exclusively heterosexual and phallo-logocentric cultural framework that it "moves" within. Sontag connects camp almost exclusively to homosexuality (as well as "Jewish moral seriousness") in an attempt at critical intervention and in the crusade of pleasure and eroticism. O'Hara seems to echo Sontag's sentiments and attempts to write with the use of a hermeneutic lens that sees through the discrimination, false interpretations, and sexual stodginess of American society:

Last year I entertained I practically serenaded
Zinka Milanov when the Metropolitan Opera company
(and they know a good thing) came to S-on-H, and now
I'm expected to spend the rest of my days in a north-state
greenhouse where the inhabitants don't even know
that the "Jewel Song"'s from Carmen. They think oy
is short for oysters. I may be tough and selfish, but
what do you expect? my favorite play is William Tell.
You can't tell me the city's wicked: I'm wicked.
The difference between your climate and mine is
that up north in the Aurora Borealis the blame falls like rain. (Poems 85)
The irony of "what do you expect?" captures the essence of camp as strategy. O'Hara is not afraid to "poke" fun of anything and "cram-it" into his poetry: "oy for oysters," "William Tell --- do tell?," the sublime of "Aurora Borealis" juxtaposed with the city's wickedness, etc. This poem, purported by Brad Gooch 6 to be, at least in part, about O'Hara's first sexual experience, exemplifies camp as a deconstructive mode:
That's how they act to The American Boy
from Sodom-on-Hudson (non-resident membership
in The Museum of Modern Art) as if it weren't the best
rising like a coloratura, no road sighs, and self-plumbing'
and more damned vistas of tundra than Tivoli
has dolce far niente. It's me, though, not the city -
oh my god don't let them take me away! wire The Times. (Poems 85)
This poem, once again, is held together symbolically by the trope of homoeroticism (or sex and desire generally), while at the same time "scrambles" conventional meanings (e.g. "Sodom-on-Hudson"). Camp as a strategy informs the poem's attitude towards reality as an undefinable (non)object and subverts standard associations and representation. Symbolism, surrealism, eroticism, and camp fail to encompass the poem. In other words, one cannot "get at" the meaning of the poem. Various images can be linked to various signifiers that seem to reveal something, but it can not be "pinned down," so to speak. Every moment in this poem, and seemingly of O'Hara's oeuvre generally, is that it clings to the present. The effect of camp forces the reader to be bound to immediate and persistent images of the present.

Camp informs the reader to conceive of "the text" as though it were an intertextual loop, not bound by poetic convention or the actual/intentional meaning of the words, but entirely by history, culture, interpretation, and the ideological/value system that it mocks, subverts and celebrates, all at the same time. There exists a symbolic order, but that itself is undermined by the "quasi-surreal" juxtapositions and the strategic use of camp. Camp is part of O'Hara's trick, whereby it "foregrounds the otherness of everything except difference itself. It betrays determination by exposing the originary differences inherent in and effaced by determination" (Bredbeck 279).

 Once again, I refer to Easter, a poem where O'Hara ironically ("without camp") effuses homoerotic imagery with campy pop-culture images, and juxtaposes those with "quasi-surreal" leaps:

The razzle dazzle maggots are summary
tattooing my simplicity on the pitiable.
The perforated mountains of my saliva leave cities awash
more exclusively open and more pale than skirts.
O the glassy towns are fucked by yaks
slowly bleeding a quiet filigree on the leaves of that souvenir
of a bird chastely crossing the boulevard of falling stars
cold in the dull heavens
drowned in flesh,
it's the night like I love it all cruisy and nelly
fingered fan of boskage fronds the white smile of sleeps. (Poems 96)
Nothing is summary in this poem, but the inability of summary. The "glassy towns are fucked by yaks" - - - and by O'Hara who seems to smash Jeremy Bentham's actual/Foucault's "illustration" of the panopticon to bits and shards. He sets the reader up with their own expectations, associations, and representations (e.g. the dominant cultural paradigms) and then, with one homoerotic scoop "sweeps the rug out from under" their unprying/unquestioning/collective/stodgy eyes.

O'Hara's investigation and critique of culture, which often amounts to a complete subversion and dismantling of any suggestion of an epistime with some kind of codified meaning, is often foregrounded by surrealist juxtapositions, as demonstrated in Easter and Second Avenue. However, perhaps more prevalent is O'Hara's simple conversational wit and style. Even the campiness of his writing can be glossed over because of the ease of his language and concreteness of his images. Again, a selection from Personism may elucidate his position even more clearly:

Personism is to Wallace Stevens what la pesie pure was to Beranger. Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, it's all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love's life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet's feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. (Poems 498-9)
It is as if each poem is a letter to you, personally, the reader. Love, also, which seems to be the most "centering sign of Western culture (Bredbeck 277)" (perhaps it is the kitschiest as well) is never allowed universal status, nor is it ever privileged as a transcendent sign. In Memorial Day, 1950, O'Hara writes "love is a lesson in utility," which again places love in the present, but not in any sense, as a universal or trans-historical signifier.

An example of where O'Hara aesthetisizes the quotidian while self-consciously and simultaneously deconstructing various modes of signification and representation, is the poem, Interior (With Jane) 7:

The eagerness of objects to
be what we are afraid to do

cannot help but move us Is
this willingness to be a motive

in us what we reject? The
really stupid things, I mean

a can of coffee, 35 (cents) ear
ring, a handful of hair, what

do these things do to us? We
come into the room, the windows

are empty, the sun is weak
and slippery on the ice And a

sob comes, simply because it is
coldest of the things we know (Poems 55)

Again, nothing is privileged in this poem, not even the words/text that create the supposed "meaning." O'Hara recognizes the inescapable "politicalness" of language and the way it actually constructs us, and the way the objects of reality, connected, however arbitrarily to words, manipulate the way we not only perceive things, but questions the way we actually acquire knowledge. Daily and recognizable items like a can of coffee are an empty sign, but connected to the possibility of something more: perhaps sexual, intimate, or sad. The reader is not meant to precisely "know" the exact connection that O'Hara makes between object and word, or agent and action. O'Hara writes:
"But how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? 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). I don't give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete)" (Poems 498).
William Tremblay suggests that "the poet uses words to challenge words. . . a poet's dialectic is with language and the whole edifice of culture that has defined what individual words mean." O'Hara exemplifies this "activity" of the poet. In the above poem, he mocks the way that he himself, as poet, as narrator, makes connections between sign and signified, emotion and reaction, agent and object. The object is always a matter of representation, and all interpretations are a compilation of epistemes and paradigms, produced, layer upon layer, by culture and history. O'Hara seems to actively engage in a deconstruction and uncovering of these layers, not meant to expose anything true or stable, but rather to live critically, and to re-invent ways of thinking about reality (especially in terms of sexuality) and about the "self." Similar to Foucault's notion of self-fashioning, where each individual constantly reinvents him or herself and approaches life like a work of art, O'Hara seems to suggest that life is made of differences, not identities. He approaches life as though it is a work of art, but he also, conversely, approaches art as though it is inseparable from life. Rapport a sol (relation to self) is contingent upon the discourse from and within each particular individual is situated. In Meditations in an Emergency, O'Hara writes the following:
My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up. . . I've tried love, but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always bursting forth! (but one must not be distracted by it!) ore like a hyacinth, "to keep the filth of life away," yes, there, even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in that department, that greenhouse. (Poems 197)
This poem reveals the characteristically postmodern themes of uncertainty and indeterminacy, as well as the idea of an unstable self that can be, and is, actively re-invented and self-fashioned. In a sense, O'Hara is calling for an aesthetics of living. He seems to suggest that not only is "meaning" or "value" transidentic, but so to is the self. In the poem, Today (which appears above), he mocks the solidity of meaning and objects in his typically campy and parodistic and campy style: "Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!/ . . . They/do have meaning. They're strong as rocks" (Poems 15). O'Hara is clearly being satirical here and delights in the witty, campy framework, which causes the reader to abandon the "solidity" and value of their expectations and pre-determined conceptions of the way "things are" or the way things "should be." In the poem, Death, he writes:
If half of me is skewered
by grey crested birds
in the middle of the vines of my promise
and the very fact that I'm a poet
suffers my eyes
to be filled with vermilion tears,

. . . for every day is another view
of the tentative past
grown secure in its foundry of shimmering
that's not even historical; it's just me.

The wind that smiles through the wires
isn't vague enough for an assertion
of a personal nature, it's not for me,

I'm not dead. Nothing remains, let alone "to be said,"
except that when I fall backwards
I am trying something new and shall succeed, as in the past. (Poems 187)

The notion of self is clearly problematic for O'Hara, and is combined with the apprehension of, in John Barth's terms, "the literature of exhaustion": "Nothing remains, let alone 'to be said.'" Not only does his perspective, as poet, change ("every day is another view"), but so too does the way he interprets reality and establishes meaning ("isn't vague enough for an assertion"). One can overcome their "self-incurred tutelage," but even so, no truth, as such, will be discovered. In Memory of My Feelings , reveals this gesture even more clearly:
My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent
and he carries me quietly, like a gondola, through the streets.
He has several likenesses, like stars and years, like numerals.

 My quietness has a number of naked selves,
so many pistols I have borrowed to protect myselves
from creatures who too readily recognize my weapons
and have murder in their heart!

 . . . so many of my transparencies could not resist the race!

          . . . And yet
I have forgotten my loves, and chiefly that one, the cancerous
statue which my body could no longer contain,
           against my will
           against my love
become art,
         I could not change it into history
and so remember it,
         and I have lost what is always and everywhere
present, the scene of my selves, the occasion of these ruses,
which I myself and singly must now kill
          and save the serpent in their midst. (Poems 252-257)

Furthermore, O'Hara might suggest that not only is life/art, a practice of self-fashioning, but, in addition, his poetry seems to echo Judith Butler in her idea regarding performativity and the subversion of identity 8. O'Hara rejects normative categories, especially in regard to gender and sexuality. In other words, he actively engages in "gender criticism," by critiquing the discourses and images that perpetuate and compel our belief in the "naturalness" and necessity of gender categories. Gender criticism subverts the notion that representation has priority over sexual difference. Once again, O'Hara deconstructs the normative conceptions of representation. In Second Avenue, he writes the following:
          . . . I crash
against the portals of the mistress of chairs, who is
yes a bearded man suspended by telephone wires from moons
in alternate sexual systems. And then there is the crushing
drop! as the fur falls from me and the man crashes, a crater,
from the heavens which he so adored and which I also decorate
as the forest of my regard. But now I have a larger following. (Poems 140)
The "alternative sexual system" (ass) is anal intercourse between homosexuals. The surreal juxtapositions that follow, which are strewn with images of bodily functions, especially sexual and homoerotic, seem like an attempt to "jostle" the reader out of their normative epistemes and patterns of thinking that have been created by such an inertia of history and culture that they are now regarded as "natural." The categories of gender (male/female) are, perhaps, the most falsely "solidified" and agreed upon of these distinctions.

 Finally, I want to examine O'Hara's use of parodies and satire, which, narrow the gap of life and art even more, as he critiques conventional and dominant assumptions regarding literature and beauty. In poems like To Jane; And in Imitation of Coleridge, Memorial Day 1950, Biotherm(For Bill Berkson), and Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets, the sense of delight and playfulness, as well as, a critique and commentary of poetic tradition is clearly evidenced. In To Jane, he writes the following:

Her slender hands accomplish more
in moving from sheet to telephone
than all the burning shields knight bore,
dull blows or slashings to the bone.

 I never tell her this because
embarrassment is far more fatal
than shrouding verse in Romantic gauze
or voyagings foolish and prenatal. (Poems 183)

O'Hara does not reject the Romantic sensibility of Coleridge and others, but rather, works within it and thereby subverts it. Charles Jencks defines postmodernism in a way that reflects almost precisely this strategy that is so prevalent in O'Hara's work: "Post-Modernism . . . (is, in part) double coding - the combination of modern techniques with something else" (Jencks 29). Jencks stresses how this connects to Derrida's notion of differance and the intense commitment to pluralism, which again is clearly evidenced in O'Hara's work. John Barth writes the following in this regard:
My ideal postmodernist author neither merely repudiates nor merely imitates either his twentieth-century modernist parents or his nineteenth-century premodernist grandparents. He has the first half of our century under his belt, but not on his back. Without lapsing into moral or artistic simplicity, shoddy craftsmanship, Madison Avenue venality, or either false or real naivete he nevertheless aspires to a fiction more democratic in its appeal than such late-modernist marvels (by my definition and in my judgement) as Beckett's Stories and Texts for Nothing or Nabokov's Pale Fire. He may not hope to reach and move the devotees of James Michener and Irving Wallace - not to mention the lobotomized mass-media illiterates. But he should hope to reach and delight, at least part of the time, beyond the circle of what Mann used to call the early Christians: professional devotees of high art. (Barth 71).

Barth seems to call for an art, a writing, that is in opposition to beauty and subverts any oppressive and "agreed upon" conception of what is or is not beauty. John Lowney argues that O'Hara's use of parody is a "post-anti-esthetic" gesture, whereby he (O'Hara) finds any oppressive mechanisms or paradigms that repress difference to be dangerous. This is evidenced in an essentially, post-World War II mentality, in which any mode of subjugation, literally or figuratively, in ideas or practice, is inherently oppressive. In Memorial Day 1950, O'Hara juxtaposes critical indictments of Auden, Rimbaud, Stein, Pasternak, and Dada (often followed by celebratory exclamations) with an attack and critical exploration of the memory of war. Similar to the way in which O'Hara "crashes" symbolist - surrealist sensibilities, is the way he makes a montage 9, or "multi-coding" of various poetic traditions and movements to create this characteristically disturbing and delightful effect:

Through all that surgery I thought
I had a lot to say, and named several last things
Gertrude Stein hadn't had time for' but then
the war was over, those things had survived
and even when you're scared art is no dictionary.
Max Ernst told us that
How many trees and frying pans
I loved and lost! Guernica hollered look out!

. . . Fathers of Dada! You carried shining erector sets
in your rough bony pockets, you were generous
and they were lovely as chewing gum or flowers!
Thank you!
And those of us who thought poetry
was crap were throttled by Auden or Rimbaud
when, sent by some compulsive Juno, we tried
to play with collages or sprechstimme in their bed.
Poetry didn't tell me not to play with toys
but alone I could never have figured out that dolls
meant death. (Poems 17)

O'Hara is both critical and appreciative of "what has happened before" in terms of poetry and intellectual thought regarding various aesthetics. Again, he creates a montage of conjunctions, in terms of language, content, and technique: surreal/symbolism, exclamation/chiding/chastisement, playfulnes/horror, and delight/desperation. He is at once critical of war, the representation of war (Guernica), interpretations of horror, love, painting, and poetry, all in a single poem. The effect on the reader is one of "emotional resonance," and a disturbing/amusing tension, that jettisons our normative paradigms in regard to art, war, love and language. Lowney writes the following of the same poem: "This passage epitomizes the anxiety of the postmodernist poet that everything has been said, that formal innovation is no longer pssible, and that the world wars have acheived the act of revolutionary destruction that vanguardist rhetoric called for" (Lowney 250). He suggests that this poem "fuses and confuses personal memory with codified historical memory, personal desire with textual knowledge, imagination with recollection" (Lowney 248). It is this montage that creates structures of aesthetic variation and deconstructive modes that, in turn, provide a dismantling of language and reality.

O'Hara's parodies function in a similar way to his use of camp. Both are strategies that accomplish not only a humorous poem, but attempt to expose and dismantle traditional ways of perceiving reality and conventional ways of using language to represent these perceptions. The final piece to O'Hara's montage of symbolist/surreal, parody, and camp is his "easy" and accessible colloquial language and vocabulary that is virtually ubiquitous to his work. This juxtaposition creates an effect that is seemingly mundane and simple, yet tremendously exciting. Again, the reader is engaged, first at a superficial level, and then interested to read more and "find out"more.

In conclusion, I will suggest, that O'Hara's poetry is a poetry that is available to the multitudes and a challenge to the critic. He writes the following in Personism, "You just go on your nerve. I don't believe in god, so I don't have to make elaborately sounded structures. . . I don't even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff . . . If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up!' I was a track star for Mineola Prep'"(Poems 498). And he continues regarding technique and style . . ."that's just common sense: if you're going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There's nothing metaphysical about it." O'Hara doesn't set out to impose any truth or order on the universe; that is, he is not striving to be right or correct, but somehow manages to be so "down to earth" - - everyone can relate.

The critical lens that O'Hara "wears," which is indeed a very observant and often humorous one, creates a new hermeneutics that actively deconstructs reality and the language used to describe and represent it. His poetry is a montage of past and present, wit and seriousness, critique and celebration, surrealism and symbolism, camp and concern, parody and playfulness, subversion and acceptance, quotidian and intellectual, sexual and erotic, love and desire. It is this complexity and juxtaposing, and "crashing" of images and techniques that make O'Hara's work most interesting. He merges art and life into a new aesthetic that is as unstable as the life that he lived. O'Hara writes, “American art is with a few exceptions, simply avant-garde art. It is still alive, it is part of our lives (not nationally -personally), it can be experienced without necessarily being understood completely, it can move us and remain a mystery” (Poems 499). In a sense, this seems to be an ars poetica as much as anything else for O'Hara.

Finally, I would like to end with a line from O'Hara's poem Biotherm, which Ted Berrigan suggests "might stand to characterize all of Mr. O'Hara's art: 'I am guarding it from mess and message'" (Berrigan 176).

Note 1. A term coined by James Schuyler in reference to O'Hara's interest in French Surrealitst and Russian poets (esp. Pasternak and Mayakovsky) whom "speak the language of every day into the reader's dreams," says Ashbery in his introduction to Donald Allen's Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara.

Note 2. "Trick," here means 'a short term sexual partner' in one sense, as described and used by Bredbeck, as well as some kind of mischievous prank intended to deceive, regarded denotatively and connotatively as one typically regards a "trick" or "prank." "Cruise" is also a somewhat sexual term in both the homo- and hetero- sexual communities in that is suggests "the search for sex, i.e. looking for a sexual partner." This term will be revisited again in terms of O'Hara's use of camp. Although Bredbeck's argument is developed around "the terms of homoeroticism," and he examines how O'Hara's poetry "calls into question the promise of a homosexual semiotics" (Bredbeck 268) (a largely different project than what is being explored here) his idea of O'Hara's trick is extremely useful for this discussion as well.

Note 3. In Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton writes, "Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express - - - verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner - - - the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern. . . Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life" (Breton 468). For example, from Free Union:

My wife whose hair is brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger

Note 4. By contradictory or manipulative psychic mechanisms, I refer to systmes, such as Freudian psychoanalysis, Christianity, or any philosophies, ideological/belief/value system that have so singificantly intruded on our "collective consciousness" (yet another intrusive system), which have established categories and assumptions that we have come to regard as natural (e.g. male/female gender codes).

Note 5. In this passage, Hazel Smith is discussing the poem Easter, but certainly, Second Avenue is consistent with this same assessment --- perhaps even more so. Homoeroticism, eroticism, sensuality, sexuality and the physical manifestation of these are one of the cornerstones of all of O'Hara's poetry. Another, and perhaps related, cornerstone is love, and the problems associated with it, e.g. linguistically, interpretively, or experientially.

Note 6. Brad Gooch, author of O'Hara's biography, City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara provides some enlightening and insightful details about O'Hara's life, especially in regard to moments of actual experience that seem to manifest themselves in his poetry. This information (i.e. biographical) can be useful or misleading at times, but in this particular case, it seems to provide an interesting clarity.

Note 7. "Jane" in this poem is Jane Freilicher, a very close friend of O'Hara who Gooch describes as "A pretty twenty-six-year-old painter, with dark hair and a misleadingly serious and preoccupied demeanor, Freilicher had a campy wit and brainy zest for literature in the vein of Ivy Compton-Burnett that made her a natural focus of O'Hara's enthusiasm" (Gooch 177). She is often grouped with abstract expressionist painters like de Koonig or Pollock, though, I think, mistakenly. Her work, expressionist and abstract in some regards, is more impressionistic and even realist.

Note 8. In her book,Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Butler argues the following: "If the body is not a "being," but a variable boundary, a surface whose permeability is politically regulated, a signifying practice within a cultural field of gender hierarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, then what language is left for understanding this corporeal enactment, gender, that constitutes its "interior" signification on its surface? Sartre would perhaps have called this act "a style of being," Foucault, "a stylistics of existence." And in my earlier reading of Beauvoir, I suggest that gendered bodies are so many "styles of the flesh." These styles all never fully self-styled, for styles have a history, and those histories condition and limit the possibilities. Consider gender, for instance, as a corporeal style, an "act," as it were, which is both intentional and performative, where "performative" suggests a dramatic and contingent construction of meaning" (Butler 139). She goes onto argue that gender is "a construction that regularly conceals its genesis," and that the effect of gender is produced by a continuous and unconscious act or performance of the body.

Note 9. William Tremblay interestingly correlates Segei Eisenstein's filmic technique of montage to Pound's notion of Vortex, Eliot's Objective Correlative, as well as, the juxtapositions of images found in various surreal poetry and other literature. Eisenstein writes: "any two pieces of a film stuck together inevitably combine to create a new concept, a new quality born of that juxtaposition." Tremblay refers to this as a synergy, whereby two contrasting images will "trigger emotional resonance." This notion relates to Derrida and O'Hara, in their endeavor to investigate what exists between difference, and between sign and signified. It is the conjunction of images, or object and agent, and word and symbol, and the differences/interpretations that are already in place that lend itself to the emotional and psychological resonance that ultimately manifests itself in the reader's mind.

Works Cited

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University: University of California Press, 1995.

Barth, John. “The Literature of Replenishment, Postmodernist Fiction,” The Atlantic (January 1980)

Berrigan, Ted. “Frank O’Hara’s Question from the ‘Writers and Issues’ by John Ashbery,”
Homage to Frank O’Hara. Ed. Bill Berkson and Joe LeSuer. Bolinas, Ca: Big Sky, 1988.

Bredbeck, Gregory W. “B/O —Barthe’s Text/O’Hara’s Trick,” PMLA 108:2 (March 1993)

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Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge,

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Jencks, Charles. What is Post-Modernism? London: Academy Editions, 1996

Lowney, John. “The ‘Post-Anti-Esthetic’ Poetics of Frank O’Hara,” Contempory Literature. 32:2
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Perloff, Marjorie. Frank O’Hara: Poet Among Painters. New York: George Braziller, 1977.

Smith, Hazel. “In Memory of Metaphor: Deconstructive Modes in the Poetry of Frank O’Hara,”
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Tremblay, Bill. Personal Interview