- Angel Hair Magazine, the Second-Generation New York School, and the Poetics of Sociability
The Granary Books publication of Angel Hair Sleeps with a Boy in My Head: The Angel Hair Anthology is both cause for celebration and an invitation to assess the significance of the poetry and overall scene associated with those writers representing the so-called second-generation New York school.1 This appraisal is a necessary step for literary and cultural history, as TheAngel Hair Anthology recovers a decades-old avant-garde movement whose influence continues to be felt in New York and national avant-garde circles. Poets associated with the Language writing phenomenon, spoken-word culture, and younger contemporary American innovative writers have all pointed to the poets and poetry scene of the second generation as especially significant.
The contributors' notes to the St. Mark's Poetry Project anthology Out of This World are telling in terms of the debts owed to the second-generation scene. Regarding the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church reading series when Angel Hair editor Anne Waldman was [End Page 331] serving as its director, Charles Bernstein writes that it "provided an important alternative to the low energy, formally inert poetry of official verse culture" (qtd. in Waldman, Out of This World 621). Bernstein and Bruce Andrews went on to publish Bernadette Mayer's celebrated "Experiments" list along with essays on or byMayer, Clark Coolidge, Lorenzo Thomas, and other second-generation affiliated writers in their collaboratively edited The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. Andrei Codrescu remembers, "Ted Berrigan, who enjoyed my rudimentary English, taught me the poetry of the New World. It was a whole new kind of poetry: alive, anti-academic, bohemian, streetwise, political, open" (630). Amy Gerstler recalls: "Dennis Cooper . . . also introduced me to 'New York School' writers, and St. Mark's Newsletter, and numerous East Coast small-press magazines and anthologies. Those introductions provided me with what felt at the time like a direction"(642). Michael Palmer gave his first reading at St. Mark's and recollects "Berrigan's barking laugh, half challenge, half support, in the background" and "a reading with Charles North and a Sunday 'conversation' with Clark Coolidge and audience about desire, silence, narrative, subversion, loss, subject, Sade, Bataille, Blanchot, Olson, hymns, and fragments"(669). Punk legend Richard Hell credits Anne Waldman with inspiring him to start CUZ magazine, which would go on to publish work by Ron Padgett, René Ricard, and Eileen Myles (646).
Showing the influence not just of John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch but also of Padgett and Berrigan, David Lehman in his book The Last Avant-Garde demonstrates how second-generation poets inspired younger writers including Paul Violi, Alice Notley (who was married to Berrigan during this period), Tim Dlugos, and Eileen Myles (359-79). Bob Holman, one of the main impresarios of the "spoken word" performance poetry community, has stated: "I remember when Jim Brodey did Howl in five languages at the Poetry Project. They were read simultaneously—unrehearsed, just to do it. The performance dynamic at the church has been nurtured and important and was what allowed me to go down to the Nuyorican Poets Café and start my thing there" (qtd. in Kane 206). In Statutes of Liberty, Geoffrey Ward draws a link between contemporary avant-garde publications [End Page 332] and their predecessors: "Imprints such as Burning Deck, Roof, The Figures or Potes & Poets Press are the intrepid contemporary heirs of Corinth Books, Tibor De Nagy Editions, The Poet's Press, C, Angel Hair Books and other small-scale outfits that published the new American poetry of the 1960s" (179). It is clear in light of these references that we must take a critical look at the writing affiliated with the second-generation New York school in order to understand and historicize the contemporary innovative poetry scene more fully and properly.
Many writers associated with the second generation—including Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett, Bernadette Mayer, Clark Coolidge, and Dick Gallup—certainly deserve to be considered as significant individual poets. TheAngel Hair Anthology nevertheless reminds us that second-generation poetry was in many ways produced...