Unlike the Beat and San Franciso poets, the poets of the New York School are not interested in overtly moral questions, and, in general, they steer clear of political issues. They have the best formal educations of any group.
The major figures of the New York School -- John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Kenneth Koch -- met while they were undergraduates at Harvard University. They are quintessentially urban, cool, nonreligious, witty with a poignant, pastel sophistication. Their poems are fast moving, full of urban detail, incongruity, and an almost palpable sense of suspended belief.
New York City is the fine arts center of America and the birthplace of Abstract Expressionism, a major inspiration of this poetry. Most of the poets worked as art reviewers or museum curators, or collaborated with painters. Perhaps because of their feeling for abstract art, which distrusts figurative shapes and obvious meanings, their work is often difficult to comprehend, as in the later work of John Ashbery (1927- ), perhaps the most influential poet writing today.
Ashbery's fluid poems record thoughts and emotions as they wash over the mind too swiftly for direct articulation. His profound, long poem, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), which won three major prizes, glides from thought to thought, often reflecting back on itself:
Flying unknown colors has entered the harbor. You are allowing extraneous matters To break up your day...