In a biographical note he wrote for An Anthology of New York Poets (edited by Ron Padgett and David Shapiro in 1970), Berkson paid tribute to O’Hara’s deep influence on him:
General ‘cultural’ education through friendship with Frank O’Hara: the Stravinsky-Balanchine Agon (and Edwin Denby’s essay on it), Satie (we created four-hand ‘annoyances’ at various apartments, once played for Henze in Rome), Feldman, Turandot, a certain Prokofiev toccato, Virgil Thomson (I had heard a recording of Four Saints at Harry Smith’s, Providence, 1957), movies … we read Wyatt together, recited Racine, skipped through galleries, collaborated on The Hymns of St. Bridget 1961-64, a note on Reverdy for Mercure de France 1961.
As he later told Brad Gooch, “I listened hard to what he said about poetry, about all the arts, about people, about living.”
Read For the Chinese New Year & for Bill Berkson by Frank O’Hara here.
Hymns Of St. Bridget begins simply enough in October 1960 as the first collaboration between Bill Berkson and Frank O’Hara — from there it multiplies energetically into an ongoing exchange between Berkson and O’Hara that includes the FYI poems, The Letters of Angelicus and Fidelio, and Marcia: An Unfinished Novel.
Bill Berkson (1939–2016)