from PERSONISM: A MANIFESTO
Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor
wealthy manís Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that
one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that canít be got at
one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come on. I donít believe
in god, so I donít have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate
Vachel Lindsay, always have, I donít even like rhythm, assonance, all that
stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someoneís chasing you down the street
with a knife you just run, you donít turn around and shout, "Give it up!
I was a track star for Mineola Prep."
Thatís for the writing poems part. As for their reception, suppose youíre in love and someoneís mistreating (mal aimé) you, you donít say, "Hey, you canít hurt me this way, I care!" you just let all the different bodies fall where they may, and they always do Ďflay after a few months. But thatís not why you fell in love in the first place, just to hang onto life, so you have to take your chances and try to avoid being logical. Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.
Iím not saying that I donít have practically the most lofty ideas of anyone writing today, but what difference does that make? theyíre just ideas. The only good thing about it is that when I get lofty enough Iíve stopped thinking and thatís when refreshment arrives.
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 donít give a damn whether eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they donít need to, if they donít need poetry bully for them, I like the movies too. And all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American are better than the movies. As for measure and other technical apparatus, thatís just common sense: if youíre going to buy a of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. Thereís nothing metaphysical about it. Unless of course, you flatter yourself into thinking that what Youíre experiencing is "yearning."
Abstraction in poetry, which Allen recently commented on in It is, is intriguing. I think it appears mostly in the minute particu1ars 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 toward degree of abstraction. The nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degree of abstraction, removal, and negative capability (as in Keats and Mallarmé). Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody yet knows about, interests me a great deal, being so totally opposed to this kind of abstract removal that it is verging on a true abstraction for the first time, really, in the history of poetry. Personism is to Wallace Stevens what la poésie pure was to Béranger. Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, itís 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 loveís life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poetís feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. Thatís part of personism. It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. Itís 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.
[Frank O’Hara. "Personism: A Manifesto," Yugen #7, 1961.]