Contemporary action poetry: Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

George Gilpin - Committee Chair


Contemporary Action Poetry: Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery attempts to demonstrate the influence of Abstract Expressionist painting on the formal conceptions and aesthetic values of two of the most highly-accomplished New York poets, Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery. Contemporary Action Poetry examines the extensive art criticism of O'Hara and Ashbery, establishing their formal and aesthetic values and showing how the approaches they appropriated from the Abstract Expressionist painters allowed them to break free of the formal conservatism of most American poetry of the 1950's, creating work that, like that of the Beat poets, found both its subject and its form in its conception. Contemporary Action Poetry goes on to analyze the poetry Ashbery and O'Hara wrote between 1957-1966, demonstrating the ways in which the different approaches taken by O'Hara and Ashbery in response to the painting of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning enabled both poets to create a new kind of poetry, one that can accurately be called "Action Poetry." The final chapter examines the continuing influence of O'Hara and Ashbery, discussing such contemporary movements as the Language school and the still-flourishing New York school.


Literature, Modern; Fine Arts; Literature, American

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