This book has examined a vision of poetry that icontinually turns away from and returns to group affiliations and assimilation—from the experimental poetics of Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and Amiri Baraka and their contemporaries. The postwar avant-garde New American Poetry and the various tributaries that flow from it, among them Language poetry, establish poetry as a unique forum in which to negotiate the paradoxes of affiliation, assimilation, friendship, and personal autonomy. By continuously confronting in memorable words and metaphors its philosophical, psychological, social, and poetic quandaries, post-war American poetry demonstrates that friendship is surely one of the most curious of human phenomena, one that Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly calls a “paradox in nature.” From the 19th century to the present moment, some of the most vibrant, most enduring American writing has attempted to shed light on this infinitely rich relation, this knotty oxymoron so central to cultural narratives, literature, and people's lives.
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