Posts filed under ‘Frank O’Hara’

Ave Maria

Frank O’Hara


Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies
get them out of the house so they won’t
know what you’re up to
it’s true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by
silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you
they won’t hate you
they won’t criticize you they won’t know
they’ll be in some glamorous
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or
playing hookey
they may even be grateful to you
for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
and didn’t upset the peaceful
they will know where candy bars come
and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before
it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment
is in the Heaven on
Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
oh mothers you will have made
the little
so happy because if nobody does pick
them up in the movies
they won’t know the difference
and if somebody does it’ll be
sheer gravy
and they’ll have been truly entertained
either way
instead of hanging around the yard
or up in their room hating you
prematurely since you won’t have done
anything horribly mean
except keeping them from life’s darker joys
it’s unforgivable the latter
so don’t blame me if you won’t take this
and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in
front of a TV set
movies you wouldn’t let them see when
they were young

My thanks to Space Bar for reminding me of this delightful poem. It’s the ultimate ode to escapism, and who better than Frank O’Hara to pen it?


August 2, 2007 at 1:41 pm 2 comments

Why I am not a Painter

Frank O'Hara


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
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

From the profound to the whimsical. Why I am not a Painter it is a quintessentially O'Hara-esque poem – delightfully lighthearted but managing to say, or at least suggest, something essential. I can't explain just what it is I think O'Hara is saying here (I'm not sure he knows himself) but in some not unimportant way the poem seems to hint at a great truth about the nature of poetry and art. About how the two arrive at absence through fundamentally different processes, one by never getting to the essence at all, dealing only in approximations; the other by taking the essence out in order to make it more noticeable by its absence (was it Andrew Wyeth who said that the key thing about a painting is what's missing from it?). Perhaps it's just that the specific experiences seem so familiar. If you've ever tried your hand at writing poetry at all, you can easily relate to that last stanza: the bit about "there should be so much more…of words, of how terrible orange is and life" and the bit about "my poem is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet".

I'm probably overanalysing it. Hell, I'm almost certainly overanalysing it. The other thing that makes this such an entertaining poem is the way O'Hara pulls of the casual, conversational tone, and the way the poem is dotted with tiny asides to create an effect that is at least half comic. More than anything else this is a deliciously funny poem, one that must be taken seriously precisely because it tries so hard not to do so itself.


June 23, 2006 at 2:30 pm 5 comments