"Through personism, that is, the poet’s privacy is assured in the act of coming together through the alternative literary public sphere. And since this defiant, deeply un-American vision is simultaneously a fantasy, entering the personal poem also depersonalizes the reader: individuals connect through the impersonal voice rather than through the personal body. Though the reader finds everything in the poems, this depersonalization structuring public self-abstraction enables the poet and his audience to become a we while maintaining their private selves. If agreeing to be seen, as Leo Bersani has noted, necessitates agreeing to be policed (12), then O’Hara’s hide-and-seek, show-and-tell-nothing poetics solves this conundrum, since personism generates nothing less than a lovingly imagined community (a coterie, if you like) of visibly invisible queers. To put this dynamic in New Critical terms, the paradox is not simply “verbal and superficial that what is internal is also public.” Far from it: what is superficially public is also private. Personism confirms that individuals may be open, but they are certainly not violated; and O’Hara’s ability to walk this linguistic tightrope illuminates his continuing importance as a member of the once marginalized New York school and as a trailblazing gay poet who significantly retailored, rather than rejected, a postwar poetics of impersonality."
Terrell Scott Herring, “O’Hara’s Open Closet”
NOW we’re talking, and I’m interested in this notion of depersonalization as anti-confession but not de-personism-ization (cf Barthes: the “individual” as in particular and specific (Deleuzian maybe) but not the “personal”). But O’Hara’s critiquing the radical existentialist agency in Olson in his work in places, right? that’s what the shifting about is, on some level; and then on another it’s the forceful resistance to confessionalistic depth-models of poetry. I’m reluctant, furthermore, to read O’Hara into the dominant narratives of New Criticism because he actively works on his own narratives (see his alternative literary tradition that goes through Pasternak and Mayakovsky, that celebrates French Surrealism and Dadaism over Eliot and that doesn’t care for Poundian absolutes). What happens if we shift the focus from public/private (which implies an inside/outside which is problematic) to the realm of the social? What if we flatten this out? Things to think about.