Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Changing SubjectsDigressions in Modern American Poetry$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Srikanth Reddy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199791026

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199791026.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 November 2019

Digression Personified

Digression Personified

Whitman, the New York School, and the Drift of Poetry

(p.95) Chapter 4 Digression Personified
Changing Subjects

Srikanth Reddy

Oxford University Press

“A book I have made, the words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,” said Walt Whitman in 1865. While this may seem an extraordinary claim for a wordsmith to make, the concept of textual drift defines a strain of American writing from “the radiant gist” of Williams’ Paterson to the implicit question (“get my drift?”) which underwrites the Beat aesthetic in the post-war period. In the writings of Frank O’Hara, poetic utterance is modelled upon the digressive drift of “metropolitan conversation” as a means of constructing personhood; this writer’s conversation poems articulate a mode of self-presentation which prioritizes the digressive drift of personality over formal, expository discourse on any single governing subject. Moving from Whitman through O’Hara to the post-war Manhattan art world, this section discusses the abolition of the pictorial subject under the aesthetics of abstraction; wielding conversational digressions instead of oils and acrylic in poems such as “Digression on Number 1, 1948,” O’Hara imports the New York School’s painterly project of constructing “a text without a subject” into the discursive field of language.

Keywords:   New York School, Frank O’Hara, Walt Whitman, conversation poetry, pictorial abstraction

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .