Episode 2 – Frank O’Hara

In this episode Drake and Pedro discuss Frank O’Hara, who says Meditations in an Emergency: “I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.”

Frank O’Hara was an American writer, born on 27 March, 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland. Though he is widely recognized as a prolific (thanks in part to Donald Allen’s collection of Frank O’Hara’s poems) and influential poet, he also had an active life in the arts as a curator in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and a writer of the New York School. He befriended many important artists, including painters such as Pollock and De Kooning (both Willem and Elaine) and musicians such as Feldman. With all the activity happening in New York, it was a wonderful time to be an artist.

After the TV show Mad Men featured some of Frank O’Hara’s poetry, sales of O’Hara’s book Meditations in an Emergency grew and O’Hara began to gain somewhat of a cult following on the Internet. We came to know him after stumbling across his reading of Having a Coke With You, which is available to watch on YouTube.

A good way to summarize Frank O’Hara’s take on poetry is to quote part of a statement he made for The New American Poetry:

It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.

Here are a few of his poems:

From The sad thing about life

The sad thing about life is
that I need money to write poetry
and If I am a good poet
nobody will care how I got it
and If I am a bad poet
nobody will know how I got it

From Why I am not a painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

From My Heart:

I’m not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time,
I don’t prefer one “strain” to another.
I’d have the immediacy of a bad movie,
not just a sleeper, but also the big,
overproduced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says “That’s
not like Frank!”, all to the good! I
don’t wear brown and gray suits all the time,
do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
often. I want my feet to be bare,
I want my face to be shaven, and my heart—
you can’t plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

Here are some good resources about Frank O’Hara:

http://www.frankohara.org/
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/articles/detail/90078
https://newyorkschoolpoets.wordpress.com/?s=Frank+O%27Hara. This blog is excellent and has great resources not only about O’Hara and the New York School of poets, but also on the Beats Poets and the New York School of arts. We can’t recommend it enough.

 

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