Continuing with Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions by Maggie Nelson, a book I began reading here. Excerpt below from the essay on abstract/minimal poet Barbara Guest (1920-2006) –
"Curiously, it is also true that compared to the men of the New York School, Guest's work is by far the most explicitly involved with "canonical" writers and issues. Whereas Schuyler, O'Hara, and Ashbery all cultivate the camp pleasure of eschewing the major and privileging the minor, Guest's work converses throughout with heavy hitters, reaching a peak in 1999's Rocks on a Platter: Notes on Literature, each of whose four sections begins with an epigraph from a notable male: 1. Hölderlin ("To live is to defend form"); 2. Dr. Samuel Johnson ("To invest abstract ideas with forms, and animate them with activity has always been the right of poetry"); 3. Hegel ("The empirical inner and outer world is just what is not the world of genuine reality, but is to be entitled a mere appearance more strictly than is true of art, and a crueller deception"); and 4. Adorno ("The Moment a limit is posited it is overstepped, and that against which the limit was established is absorbed.") ... Taken together, these epigraphs from Rocks on a Platter also testify to Guest's distrust of "the empirical inner and outer world," which, as Hegel has it, "is just what is not the world of genuine reality, but is to be entitled a mere appearance more strictly than is true of art, and a crueller deception." ... For Guest – as for Mallarmé, and, perhaps, Stevens – poetry is not just a part of reality. It is also a reality unto itself – and a separate, perhaps truer one at that."
|Barbara Guest in Sermoneta, Italy, 1965. Photo by Gloria Finn.|