Frank O’Hara and Personism

by Florence Sunnen

“[Frank] O’Hara stated that one day in 1959 while writing a poem for a specific person, he realized that he could “use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born.” Personist poetry speaks with immediacy and directness of everyday experience, in everyday language. O’Hara’s statement, “You just go on your nerve,” is reminiscent of the spontaneity and antiformalism of the Beats; his insistence that Personism “does not have to do with personality or intimacy” suggests an affinity for the poem as a work of art rather than a means of expression.”


Postmodern American Poetry. A Norton Anthology. Ed. Paul Hoover