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Beautiful EnemiesFriendship and Postwar American Poetry$
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Andrew Epstein

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181005

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181005.001.0001

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(p.1) (p.2) (p.3) Introduction
Beautiful Enemies

Andrew Epstein

Oxford University Press

This book of postwar American poetry's obsession with friendship and its pleasures, limitations, and contradictions borrows its title from Ralph Waldo Emerson's “Friendship.” Emerson drives home his belief that true friendship, at its most intense and productive, is a wonderful yet confounding contradiction. This equivocal attitude about friendship and the possibilities for communion with others has reverberated throughout the history and development of American poetry. The book argues that this troubling yet generative clash between friendship and non-conformity is central to post-World War II American poetry and its development. By focusing on the work and interrelations of some of the most important and influential postmodernist American poets—the “New York School” poets Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery and their close contemporary Amiri Baraka—the book investigates the peculiar dynamics of American avant-garde poetic communities and the uneasy role of the individual within them.

Keywords:   American poetry, friendship, Ralph Waldo Emerson, non-conformity, post-World War II, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, avant-garde

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