The New York School (mostly)

AFTER you listen to Mini Lecture 7 and read the linked notes, choose and respond to one of these questions about Bishop, Ashbery or O’Hara.

  1. What is the speaker looking at and describing, in each section of “Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance”? How are the images related – or unrelated! – and how does the speaker feel about what she describes? How does the poem reflect Modernist and/or Postmodernist themes? Cite evidence.
  2. Ashbery has called “Soonest Mended” a “one-size-fits all confessional poem.” How would you describe and analyze it as any postmodern American’s autobiography? Cite evidence.
  3. How would you describe and analyze the argument of Ashbery’s “The Painter”? How does the poem reflect Postmodernist themes, including Nietzschean ideas about truth? Cite evidence.
  4. 4.Look up the allusions made up in “Having a Coke with You.” As a love poem, how does it compare with other canonical poems you have read, such as Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” including its references to high art and pop culture? Cite evidence.
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69 Comments

  1. 1. From the way that the speaker is describing each event, it reads like the she is looking at a book with different pictures. The images seem random going from, “group of Arabs, plotting, probably, / against our Christian Empire” to “the little pockmarked prostitutes / balanced their tea-trays on their heads.” A way that they could be connected could be that the book focuses on beauty and tragedy of the world. It mentions, “The Englishwoman poured tea, informing us / that the Duchess was going to have a baby” which is considered a good and beautiful thing. But it mentions, “An open, gritty, marble trough, carved solid / with exhortation, yellowed / as scattered cattle-teeth; / half-filled with dust, not even the dust / of the poor prophet paynim who once lay there” which is an sad and tragic scene.

    2. Ashbery’s “Soonest Mended” does a good job of presenting itself as a postmodern American’s autobiography. Throughout the entire the poem it uses words like “we” or “us” and at first I thought their was another person in the poem, but I believe Ashbery is using it in a third-person-way of writing. The events that happen throughout the poem like, “With an occasional dream, a vision: a robin flies across / The upper corner of the window, you brush your hair away” or Against the sweet faces of the others, something like: / This is what you wanted to hear” are being written in a way that seems like it is only happening to the person that is describing it.

    3. The main argument I could pick from Ashbery’s “The Painter” was how people wanted the painter to paint the sea, but the painter said he couldn’t because the sea refused to sit still. The line reads as, “Until the people who lived in the buildings / Put him to work.” The painter would refuse and think, “How could he explain to [the people] his prayer / That nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?” To appease the masses the painter had switched to a new subject to paint, his wife, but he was drawn to the sea. At the end of the poem, the painter tosses his canvas and brushes into the sea, “As though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.”

    4. I am not sure if I have noticed other allusions in poems that I have read, but I have noticed them novels that I have read. In “Having a Coke with You” it has references like, “just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase / or / at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that / used to wow me” in which the first one is a painting while Leonardo and Michelangelo are famous painters. The novels I have read mention well known songs or well known movie quotes like, “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” Any who, the unusual narrative technique with the fragment structure makes it perfect for a postmodernism poem.

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    1. I agree with you that Ashbery did an excellent job in representing postmodern America. The society was severely impacted by the situations that were arising during this time and to express this via poetry was an amazing feat.

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    2. I agree with you that the painter struggled with what he wanted to paint. Society seemed to keep pushing him this way and that. However, he was ultimately drawn back to the sea, which was what he really wanted to paint even though he was not able to master it.

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    3. The allusion of “Having a Coke with You,” reference to the high art of European sculptors and he talks about his lover. He is distracted with his lover and that the presence of beauty high class European art does not phase him. There is beauty in art;however, he is happy to be with his lover. The speaker uses art and his life to express himself.

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    4. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who gathered from “Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance” that the speaker was flipping through a book of literal images. It personally took me awhile to figure out exactly what was going on, so to comb through the responses here and see that it seems my interpretation was right is reassuring. We also agree on the contrast of beauty and tragedy, which I think is one of the most beautiful things about the poem as a whole.

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    5. I agree with your interpretation of “Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance” reading like a book.

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    6. I agree. The allusions in Coke are easier to digest. They utilize the names of more famous artist’s in order to flesh out a context for the poem to exist in. The fragmentation and fractured nature lend to the postmodernist themes.

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  2. I saw Ashbery’s poem, “The Painter” as a reflection of himself as a poet. The painter is like him but instead he is a poet. I think in the painter in the poem, like the poet, is misunderstood. “So there was never any paint on his canvas / Until the people who lived in the buildings / Put him to work”, they don’t understand that a painting cannot be forced, just like a poem cannot be forced. These people living in buildings, probably in the city, do not understand art. They do not understand that a painter or a poet cannot just paint and say whatever. It has to mean something. I think this relates to Nietzschean ideas of truth because it points out what society does not understand about art. It points out what society believes to be true about art when that is not actually the truth. I liked how he compares the painting to a prayer; it is just a hope and a wish brought to life on a canvas.

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    1. I love that you said society does not understand art. I also slightly disagree because I am one to believe that art is not meant to be understood. I mean, everyone can come up with any explanations they want, but the painter, or author, is able to use metaphors and other writing elements to create something that can be completely different and obscure. Poetry is art and there is something so secret and mysterious about the two!

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    2. I didn’t think of Ashbery’s “The Painter” as a reflection of himself, but I can see were you made that conclusion. I think, anyone who labels themselves as a ‘creative type’ has a struggle with trying to be creative ‘all the time.’ I also agree that most people don’t understand that artists can’t plaster something together and call it art. It has to mean something.

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  3. 3. In Ashbery’s “The Painter,” the speaker struggles longs to paint the sea but is always intimidated by its vastness. His neighbors encourage him to go after something less ambitions but he is never satisfied and ends up with a blank canvas.
    According to the notes from this week’s lecture, an element of Postmodernism is the idea of bringing attention to the voices that have been silenced for so long. In “The Painter,” the speaker makes constant reference to a prayer saying it “is merely silence” (4). The comment even comes from his neighbors in the second stanza as they encourage him to pick a portrait “something less angry and large, and more subject/ to a painter’s moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer” (11-12). The sea can represent the voices of individuals that have been stirring and want to be heard but are silenced by those around them. They are silenced by the situations of oppression and disbelief that are going on around them. The silence and oppression of certain people and ideas have gone on for so long that it has become normalcy and even truth because of its constant presence. This idea is seen in the poem as well as the speaker longs to paint the sea but ends up with a blank and silent canvas.

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    1. This is a wonderful observation and well written. “The Painter” does seem to at least be relatable to the people who have been silenced by others telling them to move on from something they love, especially since this is written by a poet which is often a occupation that is put down by people saying a person can’t make money off of it. The same can be said for an artist, the exact point of narrator and poet seems to be making.

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    2. I agree with your stance but I feel like the relationship the painter shares with the sea is more related to artistic endeavor versus individuals yearning to be heard. I believe when you referenced the enormity of the sea and its vastness and translated that to the inability to articulate something so great. This work was interesting in that the language was being tossed around so that it was difficult to make sense of singular words.

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  4. The speaker in Ashberry’s “The Painter” is struggling with the idea of what to paint. He wants to paint the sea, but does not feel that his rendering would do any justice when compared to the beauty and wonder of the sea. One of the characteristics of postmodernism is the idea of performance; this is represented in Ashbery’s poem as the speaker feels some pressure to create a painting, after all his creative identity is a painter. His neighbors are all waiting and watching as he as an internal debate about what to paint, and even make suggestions about how he can decide, and what he should paint. “Until the people who lived in the buildings Put him to work: “Try using the brush As a means to an end. Select, for a portrait, Something less angry and large, and more subject To a painter’s moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer”(10-12). The neighbors do not understand the reverence that the painter has for the art that he creates, and this notion is representative of the Nietzchean idea of truth. The people in the speaker’s immediate circle do not understand the truth that he has come to know about art and what it means to him.

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    1. I interrupted the struggle of what to paint as the postmodern struggle of what to do with one’s self or with one’s life within the postmodern world. While the society was being dramatically effected by the situations of post-WWII and the emerging Cold War, artists and writers were struggling to identify their necessity and influence.

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      1. I kind of see how the poem falls in line with Nietzsche’s views of truth, but Ashbery seems much less cynical than him. While, as you said, there is the struggle to determine what we want to do with our lives, Nietzsche is cynical in that he would argue it does not matter. In his essay he says there is nothing “so reprehensible and unimportant in nature that it would not… of this power of knowing”. I took from the essay that searching for meaning and truth is pointless, whereas in Ashbery’s poem the painter struggles to make something of himself and to understand himself, which is not pointless if he derives meaning from it.

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    2. I agree with your response, the struggle to create art during that time must have been hard because of the pressure of society.The painter sounds like he trying to find the meaning of art and find whats really true to himself. He wants to create something beautiful;however, it is hard for him to find the passion to paint.

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    3. I agree with all you are saying and believe that the poem can be interrupted in different ways. He is struggling with painting the sea because his confidence in how well he will be able to do so is not there.

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    4. I really liked that you brought up the idea of pressure and how he struggles internally with what to paint, something that is pressed by the public vs something he feels a deeper connection to. I do however feel that it relates deeper to the self within a postmodern world.

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  5. In Frank O’Hara’s Having a Coke with You, the speaker is expressing to the intended reader a deep infatuation. This infatuation is exemplified by heavy allusion to the greatness or superiority of the intended reader. “is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irun, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona…” This opening line is expressing that the simple, common American pleasure of ‘having a coke’ with his lover is far more stimulating that being in beautiful, cultured places of Europe. O’Hara continues in his poem to express that looking at his lover is far more enjoyable than viewing great works of art. He refers to Rembrandt, and to a period of art known as Futurism, which is marked by a social movement exemplifying technology, industrialism, youth and violence. These themes of Futurism are often found in romantic or erotic love affairs, such as being describe in Having a Coke with You. In comparison Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, which is a satirical commentary of love sonnets at the time, O’Hara has utilized allusions, however, unlike Shakespeare, this poem does not read satirically, but rather as a social commentary of the postmodern world and its effects on love affairs. Through his use of postmodern allusions, O’Hara is recognizing the impact that society is having on interpersonal romantic relationships.

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    1. I agree that the speaker is expressing a deep infatuation to the reader. I like how you compared the poem to Shakespeare’s sonnet 130. I think that is a good comparison.

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    2. I didn’t see this poem as a comment on how pop culture was effecting love affairs, but I can definitely see it that way now. I read it simply as a rushed confession to the intended reader, pulling out references to popular places and paintings to not only show his intellect but also to shower the S.O. with compliments. The reference to Futurism, however, does seem to be in your favor.

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  6. 4. In “Having a Coke with You,” by O’Hara expresses the love of art and beauty. O’Hara poem title “Having a Coke” is an American thing to do, but the speaker also describing that sharing a coke is such a memorable thing to do with someone you love.Also the speaker of the poem feels as though he is having a conversation sense of tone about his love and his life. He uses allusion in the poem by referencing famous European art and sculptors that marked history. “At a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them (16).” O’Hara is implying that he doesn’t think about art when he is in the presence of his lover and he then expresses about these famous Italian painters that they should have evolve more in their paintings because they embodied the value of art. It seems that this poem is more drawn to the subject matter and the beauty of art.He is captivating the love affair can not be compared to art. The speaker shows how using Postmodern allusion technique can show the change of society and someone’s love affair,

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    1. I love that you also used the “share a coke” idea! With the new “Share a coke with _________” we understand that it is something to do with someone you love. I also agree that he thinks his love affair is much better than any of the European art he is exposed to.

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    2. I also agree with you about how using allusion as a technique you can show how the society has changed and show the imperfections in in societies structure. I like how you stated two different views on the “sharing coke” idea, you showed one view that says it is just the “American” thing to do while giving a different perspective that although something is casual it could be a great memory as well.

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    3. Honestly, thinking about it, I didn’t really tie in the title with my response, so it’s nice to see this comment elaborate on it. The conversational sense of tone is definitely something to note for the poem, I didn’t exactly think about it either. Allusion as a technique feels quite powerful with this, and as you said, the aspect of sharing a coke as “an American thing to do” is a nice observation.

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  7. In Frank O’ Hara’s poem “Having a Coke with You”, the speaker is expressing their extreme love for the intended reader. The speaker begins by saying that the simple act of having a Coke with their love is more fun than going to far off places or “being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona”. This is a reference to a long road that runs through Spain. The speaker is saying that merely being in the presence of their love is enough of an adventure for them. Later, in the poem, the speaker claims that they never think of “the Nude Descending a Staircase” or any works by Leonardo or Michelangelo now that they can gaze upon their love interest. The painting mentioned by name is a famous Modernist painting which is an interesting way to connect this poem to previous course work. The allusions to famous art and artists shows how beautiful and timeless the speaker views their beloved. It seems like the poem, as well as other love poems, use allusions that would be widely known at the time.

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    1. I agree with your interpretation on how this poem is expressing an extreme love and how its intended for the reader.

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    2. I agree that the poem is written directly to an intended reader. The explicitness and fervor with which the love is expressed is worded in a way that demands respect and seriousness. This poem exemplifies the romantic notion of love and how it can be expressed through poetry. This work also evokes stark imagery of nudity and allusory elements that span millennia into history.

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  8. I think that “The Painter” represents how society can reject a new artform or a new way of thinking. An example of this is, “He provoked some artists leaning from the buildings / To malicious mirth..” (lines 27-28). The painter is being told how paint by his peers, “Try using the brush / As a means to an end” (Lines 9-10). When he does paint something it shocks the people around him. They want him to paint something, but it has to be to their standards and comfort levels. This is an example of postmodernism because it challenges traditional techniques in the poems text while using a traditional poetry format. I think this poem relates to Nietzsche because it points out how the painter can’t completely capture the image of the sea and have it mean the same way to the people in the building. Nietzsche points out that we use language to describe things and to find truths but we are actually contradicting ourselves by doing so. Words can diminish the true meaning of something. Nietzsche wrote that we believe we know something about the things we speak of, but “we possess nothing but metaphors for things—metaphors which correspond in no ways to the original entities” (Page 891). I think both Nietzsche and Ashbery believe that while language is important, it’s also important to think about the things we are actually talking about, rather than just using words.

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    1. I agree that his new art form is being rejected by the masses in an attempt to get them to paint the old way. Yes, the painting has to be up to the standards of the world around him and its almost he cannot paint what is truly in his mind because of it.

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    2. I did not initially notice the argument of society rejecting new art forms until you mentioned it in your analysis. That makes me think of the poem more as a tragedy that the painter is attempting to make something of his own from scratch but he has to conform to the rules of society in order for it to be accepted. I do not know about you, but the Nietzsche essay was fairly cynical and the idea that in our pursuit of knowledge we actually learn nothing is troubling, but I guess it makes sense since we can only view the universe from the perspective of ourselves, and of nothing else.

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    3. I really like the connection that you made between the poem and Nietzsche’s theory. The painter does struggle with explaining and capturing what he sees because it is so difficult to translate and be understood by the public and those around him.

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    4. I really like your interpretation of society rejecting new art forms or modes of thinking. This is something that is very real in our own society and to have that related in art is always a vindicating thing. Very often new ways of thinking or doing things are shunned and written off as suboptimal, even if later proven otherwise. Postmodernism sort of did that in its own way; it challenged ways of thinking and creating art in ways that had not been done before.

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    5. Your postulation on the importance of language is right because the word selection and succeeding usage determine how the idea is communicated. The wording in poetry determines the feels that will follow thereafter. Language can also be used to convey non-truths, but at any rate: language possesses transformative power.

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  9. In Ashbery’s “The Painter” the author is displaying how conforming to society around him is stifling his own artistic mind. I also saw the poem as the painter being almost afraid to go outside of his safe zone and the voices in his head stopping him. Those are the different viewpoints I came across over the course of the times that I read the poem. In stanza two line one through three reads, “So there was never any paint on his canvas, Until the people who lived in the buildings
    Put him to work.” He see’s this big beautiful moving sea that he wants to paint but for some reason just cant seem to master or maybe he just doesn’t believe he can do it justice. So instead he gravitates towards something less big and what more painters find their muse to paint a portrait. I believe the pem encompass Nietzschean ideals on Truth because the painter conforms to what society as a whole around him wants him to paint. In stanza two on line three states, ““Try using the brush/As a means to an end. Select, for a portrait..” The audience around the painter tells him in a way to influence what his is painting.

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    1. I find this position to be very interesting because it is a valid interpretation that only requires some explaining. The viewpoint introduces the artist’s own emotional vulnerability to give a more intimate portrait pertaining to what the creator was trying to do. Also, this disposition offers a perception that is implicit; the deduction requires the reader to assess the wording and determine the root value of what the author is trying to explain. Ashbery used a bewildering technique of word discombobulation that transforms words from the traditional sense to more along the lines of the Nietzschean sense.

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  10. In “Having a Coke with You,” O’Hara expresses a love so much better than traveling across European countries. The poem title, “Having a Coke,” is in reference to the relaxing and traditional act of sharing a drink with someone you love. He references many European countries and landmarks and claims that sharing a drink with his lover is much better than all of the mentioned. Allusion is used by referencing several European artists: “At a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them (16).” With this, he claims that the art is not important and does not impress him nearly as much as his lover does. In Shakespeare’s sonnet, Shakespeare uses metaphorical comparisons between his lover and things that are typically not considered beautiful, all to finish by claiming that regardless of all of these flaws, he is still completely in love. Like Shakespeare, O’Hara makes claims that his lover is worth so much more than materialistic attractions, whether they be based on appearance or actual physical artistic pieces. O’Hara, in the last couple of lines, says, “it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience,” claiming that the artists were all missing the experience of love that only his lover is able to help him understand.

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    1. In “Having a Coke with You,” the speaker does seem to enjoy spending time and doing simple things with the one he loves rather than traveling or looking at art. I agree with you, the speaker in Sonnet 130 does seem to love the woman despite her flaws.

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  11. “Having a Coke with You”, like many other love poems, makes heavy usage of similes and metaphors in order to compare their love, beauty, and overall appeal towards the person. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, heavy makes use of it for example. However, most of the similies and metaphors in the poem make heavy usage of allusions, specifically about famous art pieces and famous artists. It’s clear that the speaker is some sort of art buff, as there are references to “Nude Descending a Staircase”, and artists such as Leonardo di Vinci or Michelangelo, and the concept of futurism and impressionalism. I think it serves as a deep poem, but rewards you handsomely if you know what it alludes to. It’s quite a specific love poem towards a specific poem, and as long as it impresses the person it’s addressed to, I don’t think it could be bad.

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    1. The speaker in Ashberry’s “The Painter” is battling with what to paint. He needs to paint the ocean, however does not feel that his rendering would do any equity when contrasted with the excellence and ponder of the ocean. One of the attributes of postmodernism is the possibility of execution; this is spoken to in Ashbery’s sonnet as the speaker feels some weight to make a composition, after all his innovative personality is a painter. His neighbors are all holding up and looking as he as an inside open deliberation about what to paint, and even make proposals about how he can choose, and what he ought to paint. “The Painter,” the speaker makes consistent reference to a supplication saying it “is just hush” (4).

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    2. I agree with you that the author uses similes and metaphors to help get their message across. I also think that this poem is a very specific poem with one main meaning that the author does a great job of addressing. Another aspect of analyzing poems is that I believe sometimes as the reader we tend to “over analyze” the poem without actually reading into the content of the poems. In other words, I think we make things more difficult to interpret than they actually are.

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    3. I agree with you that the author uses similes and metaphors to help get their message across. I also think that this poem is a very specific poem with one main meaning that the author does a great job of addressing. Another aspect of analyzing poems is that I believe sometimes as the reader we tend to “over analyze” the poem without actually reading into the content of the poems. In other words, I think we make things more difficult to interpret than they actually are.

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  12. In “Having a Coke with You,” the narrator is clearly in love with the person they are confessing to, making many allusions to art that doesn’t compare to the other person’s beauty. The tone is relaxed and free-flowing, exacerbated by the lack of proper grammar in the poem: “except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick/ which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together for the first time.” When a person reads this, especially out loud, the flow sounds like an actual confession that would be said aloud. This version of a love poem is much preferred to Shakespeare’s sonnets because this sounds more honest and heartwarming. Shakespeare’s sonnets concentrate more on the appearance of the significant other while “Having a Coke with You” is explaining to the significant other that almost nothing compares to spending time with them and how excited they are to share all the things the narrator loves. The references to pop culture also provide more realism into the poem as seen in the previous quote with the “Polish Rider” in the Frick, a painting in the Frick museum. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, the concentration is more on the form than references or realism, which makes O’Hara’s poetry more appealing.

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    1. I misunderstood question number four, because I thought we had to just identify the some of the allusions in “Having a Coke with You.” I like how you pointed out the paintings in the poem were being used to say that they do not compare to another person’s beauty.

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  13. O’Hara heavily emphasizes the references to high art in “Having a Coke with You,” similar to such poems as Shakespeare’s beloved Sonnet 130. Both employ humor in the lengthiness of their allusions; for Shakespeare, it’s in the fact that his love doesn’t resemble any of the beauties of nature typically invoked in such love poems. For O’Hara, these references allude to the wonders of the art world, including such cultural hubs as the cities in Spain and New York, and how, despite his assertions, they don’t quite match with his love, in person or form.
    First mentioning San Sebastian, the Spanish resort town, then St. Sebastian, the city’s namesake and the patron saint of plague-stricken soldiers, O’Hara presents an interesting trio: a destination scene, his loved one in a brightly-colored shirt, and the ghastly image of a martyr of the Catholic Church. The fact that between these lines he mentions being ill on a street in Barcelona makes the juxtaposition of high art and his subject more amusing. Continuing with this whimsical tone, O’Hara considers the solemnity of statuary and portraiture, in contrast to his and his lover’s shared confidence of happiness. The line break, however, continues into a slight digression about Rembrandt’s Polish Rider in the Frick Collection, a Manhattan museum, which he’s grateful he can experience with her for the first time. This shift to the experience of viewing art, especially as an action of prestige, turns the tone humorously false and exhibitionary, much like the subject work to which O’Hara alludes. The artistic movement of Futurism, which focuses on speed, technology, youth and violence, is “more or less” covered by the loved one’s beautiful movement; this statement is a suggestion that she is an adequate representation of this period of art, although not necessarily a perfect specimen or improvement. He further considers his lack of regard for Duchamp’s modernist painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, and the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo that formerly impressed him. Finally, he questions the Impressionists’ failure to effectively create their own art, (specifically Marino Marini, who did various equestrian sculptures) an experience that he doesn’t take for granted–certified by the final line: “which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it.” O’Hara closes with this assertion to certify the implication between all the previous allusions–that his loved one is a work of art, meant to be experienced–and likely, misunderstood–like all the others.

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    1. I agree with you, O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You” does make many references to art and cities. The speaker finds her to be more interesting than looking at art. The speaker does consider her a representation of art when he compares her to Futurism.

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  14. “Having a Coke with You” is quite different to poems like “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” In Shakespeare’s poem, the speaker is very much in love with the person it is written about, however, they refuse to romanticize the subject of the poem, yet it enforces that they are loved despite and in part because of their flaws. “Having a Coke with You” on the other hand is pure romanticism. The speaker of the poem is obviously well versed in art and the overarching theme of the poem seems to be that even theirs pieces of are that are considered masterpieces are nothing compared to the person they love. From a quick google search, I gathered that San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne are all beautiful towns and cities near the water, both rivers and oceans from the looks of it, but I couldn’t find much about Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona other than the fact that it seems to be a very noteworthy street/area in Spain. Every painting of St. Sebastian I could fine he is bound to either a tree or pole being shot with arrows and martyred in a red-ish orange wrap, and unsurprisingly, he looks miserable in all of them. I think my favorite lines are “it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still / as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it” since it is obvious the speaker at one point was in love with art to know so much about it, but since they have met this person, it all seems bland in comparison. I think the key differences between “Having a Coke with You” and poems like “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” is Shakespeare could have used the exact same allusions (had they existed and/or he was aware of them) and instead of proclaiming that the person the poem was about was better than them, he’d probably mention how they couldn’t compare to those works of art, that they were no masterpiece, but he still would have chosen having a coke with them over the artwork.

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    1. Wow, so I definitely should have proofread that one before I posted because good god one of those sentences was rough. I can’t find a way to edit, but it’s killing me so…The speaker of the poem is obviously well versed in art, and the overarching theme of the poem seems to be that even pieces of art that are considered masterpieces are nothing compared to the person they love.*

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  15. In “Having a Coke with You”, O’Hara makes many allusions to beautiful areas in Europe such as San Sebastian and Barcelona in order to compare the person he loves to them. There is humor in having a soda with this person being better than traveling to some of the most famous, beautiful locations in the world. There are also odd compliments, such as having a soda with this person being more fun than “being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia”, which, if you are sick in a beautiful city, perhaps having a soda with someone you love is better (line 3). One compliment is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, when O’Hara says the person looks like a “happier St. Sebastian”, which is odd because the paintings of St. Sebastian show him impaled with spikes (line 6). However, unlike in Shakespeare’s poem, O’Hara is not satirical. Whereas Shakespeare’s compliments would hardly be well received, O’Hara comes across as genuine, such as when he starts referencing various famous works of art like Polish Rider. He implies that being with this person has ruined works of art that “used to wow [him]” and he questions whether some of the famous artists such as Michelangelo or Marini lost out on the chance to experience the beauty of the world while they were busy trying to illustrate it (line 19). He also references pop culture and the arts to express his love, such as discussing how excited he is to take this person to the Frick, and how his love compares to Futurism because of how exciting and giddy this person makes him feel. Although O’Hara’s poem is about his love for this person, he also makes the argument that artists may inadvertently lose sight of the world’s beauty by trying to represent it, and ends the poem saying he will not let experiences with his lover be “wasted”. Ironically, he says “which is why I’m telling you about it” (line 25). By writing this poem about his lover, he has put himself into the same box of artists he criticized, but this him arguing that there can be a balance between representation and experience. The greatest difference between O’Hara’s poem and Shakespeare’s is that the comparisons to art and beauty are opposite in their use; while Shakespeare uses art to make the person seem less beautiful, O’Hara uses the person to make art seem less beautiful.

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  16. In John Ashbery’s “The Painter” the narrator is describing a painter’s struggle with finding his/her’s identity with art. Ultimately their unique way to create art in itself. On lines 4-6 in the first stanza the narrator states, “he expected his subject/To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush/Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.” The word “subject” itself stands out right her because the narrator points out that instead of painting random things, that there must be a subject, such as the ocean in this poem. This shows the struggle artists go through to find a unique subject for their paintings. However, Ashberry seems to be reflecting this on any artist, whether that be painters, poets or even novelists. For him, a poet, must find their own creative/unique way of writing and must focus on a specific subject as well. Ashbery’s poem reflects Nietzschean ideas about truth by connecting this artist with the idea that we must give society what they want instead of what we want to create. We conform to societies expectations and follow their every move however, as artists we should find our own unique way of creating a certain “subject” instead of doing what society wants us to do.

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  17. 2. In Ashbery’s poem Soonest Mended it is considered to be a postmodern American autobiography, but as Ashbery has stated that it is a universally confession poem. He does this by using words such as “our” and “we” and so on, and in doing so he makes it much more relatable for readers. Those readers however are more exclusively included as those who don’t have a voice such as gays, blacks, women and Ashbery does this on purpose because he himself is a gay man. He clearly states how he and many others are never really considered as anything by stating that they are “barely tolerated, living on the margin / In our technological society, we were always having to be rescued”. So by having this poem not just an autobiography of his experiences he writes as he writing for so many others who never had a voice in literature.

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    1. I think the first few lines of “Soonest Mended” could easily be interpreted several ways. This is probably intended by the author; knowing that he lived in Postmodern America, he is most likely alluding to many of the conflicts that arose during that time. It’s also likely that he’s revealing these conflicts in a multitude of ways, involving his social, political, and personal viewpoints.

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  18. As John Ashbery declared, “Soonest Mended” is a “one-size-fits all” poem, one that is relatable to anybody whom lived in postmodern America. Right away, in the first few lines, the author presents a scenario that is very reminiscent of the time period he is writing about. It reads, “Barely tolerated, living on the margin of our technological society, we were always having to be rescued- on the brink of destruction.” Quite literally, in the postmodern era complications arose with the technological innovations that ensued. With the introduction of the atom bomb, “destruction” was a constant possibility, and conflict meant that there was little room for error- Americans were literally “living on the margin”. As the Cold War immediately took place after WW2, Americans constantly lived in a state of fear and paranoia. The narrator then sees a green truck pull up, and he begins to contemplate his “daily quandary about food, rent and bills to be paid”. His problems are much like everyone else’s- if his needs aren’t met, he will struggle to survive. After mulling over this “daily quandary” he then presents a very relatable dream: “to reduce all this to a small variant”. In other words, the narrator yearns for a better solution to his issues, one that alleviates the severity of his situation. Much like everyone else, his ambition is to be “small and clear and free”. He wants the privilege of living in a state of freedom; free from the pressures and conformity of society. He shares a relatable dream, a dream of living in complete comfort, free from worry. Ashbery describes this yearning as “a dream, a vision” of future prosperity. This is similar to the concept of the “American Dream”, the idea that Americans have an equal path to success. In reality, some people have a harder path than others. This reality is displayed further into the poem, as the author writes “They were the players, and we who had struggled at the game were merely spectators”. To put it bluntly, the narrator is saying that success is out of his control; rather, he hints that his life is dictated by the authority that rules over him. He then talks about conformity in society, and how it makes people behave, ironically stating that “it makes good citizens of us”. Everyday routines, like living in homes and brushing your teeth, only adds to the “wash, rinse, and repeat” mentality that is ever-present in America. As a new day begins, this process of conformity repeats itself, as dreams remain out of reach. Despite our hard work and dedication to friends, social hierarchy will always be a major obstacle in the way of future progress.
    The issues presented in this poem were issues that many people shared in postmodern America, and in turn this justifies the “one size fits all” label.

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  19. 4. In Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You,” the speaker describes the love he feels towards his lover. The speaker begins by saying that he would rather spend time with her than going to “San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne” (1-2). As the poem continues, he mentions everything he loves about her. He compares her movement to Futurism art. He also alludes to Duchamp’s painting when he says “just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase” (32-33). He also references the famous European 16th century artists Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo when he says “at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me” (34-35). He concludes by saying that art will not have any importance or meaning if it isn’t carefully thought out and that is why he is telling her this. O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You” uses allusions of artists and art to emphasize his lover’s beauty. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 uses similes and metaphors to describe the woman’s flaws as something beautiful.

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  20. In “Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance,” it seems as though the speaker is flipping through the pages of a book, though figuratively or literally is unclear. All these images while different in nature share the similarity of being steeped in the contrast of both the beauty and ugliness of the world. A seemingly placid group of Arabs are “plotting, probably” against the “Christian Empire.” In a graveyard, the speaker looks upon “A holy grave, not looking particularly holy.” The poem goes on through its three sections contrasting these seemingly unconnected things, drawing parallels between them. Everything in the book the speaker is looking through is “connected by “and” and “and;” everything is related, even in its difference. “Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance” could be related to the postmodernist theme of fragmentation. Rather than proceed in a deliberate order, Bishop conveys the chaos of the world, one fleeting image at a time, leaving the reader to experience things along with the speaker, and to eventually look their “infant sight away.”

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    1. This is an interesting analysis of Bishop’s poem. I hadn’t fully understood the poem in my initial reading, but this helped clear some lines up for me, particularly the one in which the speaker mentions Arabs plotting against the Christian Empire. It makes sense that the poem is a comparison of the seemingly unconnected parts of the world’s chaos.

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  21. The primary argument in Ashbery’s “The Painter” is that an artist is always helpless in perfectly articulating nature as opposed to the way that nature innately presents itself.  Other characters in the poem suggest to the main character that there are other easier more manageable subjects than the sea, which he agrees, only to return back passionately after conquering the simple subject matter.  The artist is rendered “too exhausted to lift his brush” (Ashbery) after contemplating the beauty and inexplicability of the ocean’s presence; to the degree in which he felt as if the ocean had the vitality to rush up and paint itself.  The poem illustrates the futility with which man stands against nature and how vast and powerful nature is to our own menial size and longevity.  

    The author employs a language similar to mathematical proofs.  Words assume value as symbols that surpass their meaning in the English language.  For example, Ashbery uses three different terms in varying contexts, imbuing within them different meanings based upon how they are presented.  The sea, prayer and canvas all are used interactively to convolute the meanings and instigate us to ponder their meanings as we know them.  “They tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the buildings; And the sea devoured the canvas and the brush As though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.” (Ashbery).  This mystical language transforms the ideas associated with these words in our minds to take on a new meaning.  Much like Nietzsche described, these words become symbolic for the nervous stimuli they are trying to articulate.  Ashbery masterfully mixes up the language to attain new definitions and understandings of the words solely based upon the context and level of surrealism with which they are employed.  

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  22. “Having a Coke with You” pokes fun at the stuffy high art, “important” intellectual things some folks believe to be important by juxtaposing them with mundane objects and colloquialism. For example: O’Hara has an overtly poetic metaphor of “a tree breathing through its spectacles”, followed by a literal description of portraits. He refers to these paintings as just that, paint. This plain viewing of these portraits is like someone calling a novel just words. These contrasting ideas emphasize the notion that his lovely one is everything every intellectual would consider beautiful art while also describing the humble nature of his lover. Another nice example of these contrasting cultures is his mention of Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”, which is a complex, cubist painting, contrasted with the speaker describing “drawing[s] of Leonardo or Michelangelo / that used to wow [him]”. A complex painting is surrounded by common diction showing, again, the complexity of his lover’s beauty.

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  23. “Having a Coke with You” and “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” are both pieces that are written by a lovestruck soul however, their conditions vary dramatically. In “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” the speaker is comparing his mistress to that of something much more pleasing and aesthetically beautiful. However it could be that he is also trying to explain that there is simply no perfect woman and there for there will always be flaws and something that would outshine all of her beauty. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red” is an indicator the speaker is either remorseful about the affair or that he is simply uninterested in everything she has to offer. In O’Hara’s poem, his technique is similar to Shakespeare’s by using analogies to compare his lover to that of all these works of art, modern day places, etc. “because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian”. St. Sebastian is the patron saint for the city that they are in. “it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles” is saying that within the most brightest hour of the day he will always find home in her love and peaceful that he finds within her soul. He then continues to list all these important works of art in comparison to her.

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    1. Your analysis of the New York 4 o’clock light line in “Having a Coke with You” is really wonderful. The idea of the subject of the poem being a source of warmth and a sense of home and peace for the poem’s speaker hadn’t occurred to me. Mentioning the line about her orange shirt also adds to the idea of her warmth and similarity to the sunlight.

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    2. “Having a Coke with You” seems like one of the most popular poems to respond to by far in the comments. The analysis for Sonnet 130 helps a lot when it comes to understanding the poem, and pointing out O’Hara’s technique being similar to Shakespeare’s shows this. I do appreciate the explanation for St. Sabastian as well. Understanding that there are allusions is good, but explaining what they are makes me understand the poem a lot more.

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  24. sorry for the repost but apparently when I posted my initial blog response it posted as a response to another students comment snot as an actual blog response….The speaker in Ashberry’s “The Painter” is battling with what to paint. He needs to paint the ocean, however, does not feel that his rendering would do any equity when contrasted with the excellence and ponder of the ocean. One of the attributes of postmodernism is the possibility of execution; this is spoken to in Ashbery’s sonnet as the speaker feels some weight to make a composition, after all his innovative personality is a painter. His neighbors are all holding up and looking as he as an inside open deliberation about what to paint, and even make proposals about how he can choose, and what he ought to paint. “The Painter,” the speaker makes consistent reference to a supplication saying it “is just hush” (4).

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  25. 1. Looking at the poem, it seems to be that the speaker is reading a book, describing different events, stating, “The Seven Wonders of the World are tired and a touch familiar”. The second stanza also seems to start off as an entry to an exploration, “Entering the Narrows at St. Johns the touching bleat of goats reaching to the ship” playing on the post-modernist attention to other worlds. The poem also jumps around from different time episodes, one minute the speaker is in Mexico, and the next minute the speaker is talking to an Englishwoman. There is also a mention of God, “dispersing storms, God’s spreading fingerprint”, “the dead volcanoes glistened like Easter lilies” and ” A holy grave, not looking particularly holy,” that also in a way support Nietzche’s postmodernist ideal of religion.
    2. Ashbery’s “Soonest Mended”, is a great postmodern American autobiography, describing the pains and thoughts of others during this time as well as those who come after this time period. Throughout the poem, Ashbery used a lot of third-person tenses although there doesn’t seem to be more than one speaker. The poem reaches out to the audience, explaining feelings and realizations, “In the flickering bulbs of the sky, raised past us, taken away from us, Yet ours over and over until the end that is past truth,The being of our sentences, in the climate that fostered them, Not ours to own, like a book, but to be with, and sometimes To be without, alone and desperate”. The poem also touch basis on time and how we sometimes cower at the thought of aging stating, ” For time is an emulsion, and probably thinking not to grow up Is the brightest kind of maturity for us, right now at any rate”.
    3. The argument in Ashbery’s “The Painter” is that how can he paint a picture on a canvas whe the subjets that he choose are already their own portrait painting themselves stating, ” he expected his subject To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,Plaster its own portrait on the canvas”. The painter struggles with painting this subject, even changing subjects and using his wife as a subject. But through this back and forth internal conflict he was having with himself, he never actually paints anything, at least this time around because he states in the first few lines how he enjoyed painting the sea. He states,” How could he explain to them his prayer That nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?” and then in the last stanza him and the rest of the people in the building throw the canvas of the building, finally letting the sea have its way with the canvas. So to me the main argument is that he can’t actually paint the sea because the sea is already a vast portrait itself. And, when looking at the poem and Nietzsche’s post-modernist themes, we can see a little bit of religion playing out in which Nietzche believed in Christ.It also plays on the theme of silence as the painter mentions the silence of prayer.
    4. When looking at Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” you get the raw, ugly truth, but what what seems to be a real love and admiration for what is. Shakespeare describes the mistress in a very unpleasant way, “And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks”. If one was to paint an image based off the description of the mistress, one would assume she was this foul smelling, hideous woman which implies nothing of a love poem to me, but then Shakespeare turns around and surprises me at the end as he states, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare”. This was a bittersweet ending, one that seemed so true to the heart. In “Having a Coke with You”, I felt the love more. The two poems varied in comparison because in Shakespeare’s, the readers seen the love for the mistress through the eyes as he created an image. In O’Hara’s poem, “Having a Coke with You”, the love seems more pleasant and is described through different comparison’s of thing rather than image. In O’Hara’s poem he states, ” I look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world…” creating a more composed love.

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    1. I agree with your assessment of “Soonest Mended”. I think the narrator is hard to pinpoint because the author intended for the story to be as relatable as possible. Anyone who knew what it was like to grow up in postmodern society could easily identify with the struggles presented throughout the poem.

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  26. John Ashbery’s “The Painter” is very convoluted and cryptic.  Words are used here and there in different ways that imbue different meanings unto them; which makes the work all the more confusing to work with.  The word “prayer” is used in three different contexts: silence to a child, inspiration to a painting and exasperatingly.  As word is tossed about, we begin to identify with the etymology behind it and discover new thoughts one what we once believed the term to mean.  The whole piece conjures thoughts of “what does this mean?” and “am I interpreting this correctly?”  Which is difficult to ascertain, because in this piece the painter himself is perplexed as to how to harness the beauty and rage of the sea.  All of the fixations within this work lie on unstable ground because the usages and involved characters all culminate into the whirling idea that no one knows quite objectively the meaning of anything.

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