Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh Frankie, We love you!

Frank O'Hara: my favorite poet

Okay, so sometimes I'm not a fan of poetry, but Frank O'Hara caught my interest immediatly. It was actually for an English assignment, and once I bumped into his poetry, I was in love! I completely feel his poetry; even when I don't understand it. And the more I examined his poetry and read about hsi life...its like I felt a weird connection with him. I wish he were still alive, I would definetly want to speak with him oneday. I dont know about you guys, but his poetry changed my life- the way I look a poetry- its just amazing.

His Life, in a nutshell:
-He was born in 1926, and died in 1966
-He grew up in Masaachusetts, went to Harvard, moved to New York where he started to write in earnest
-He worked at the MOMA (museum of modern art)

Style + Influences:
-He had an interest in art (working at the MOMA), which is why so many of his poems relate poetry to painting
-He loved New York, and the rush of life there, how everything is going on at the same time, and the city is always busy and brimming with so many different people
-He was homosexual, and you'll notice that his poems have no gender (he doesnt say he loves a 'him' or 'her'), to make his poems more universal
-Honesty. Frankness. Being true to art. These were his fundamental characteristics. His poetry was so new and different at the time because he had no structure (no rhymes, weird punctuation, lots of exclamation marks), and he wrote on impulse. In act, he wrote some of the poetry on the day of his readings sometimes. He didn't like the cliche, and critized painters and poets who didn't have passionate subjects but instead just made calculated, "safe" work.
-His poems also include tons of names and references to friends and loved ones of Frank O'Hara, and this is a great qoute to sum it up:
"Reading a Frank O’Hara poem is like being thrown into the middle of a party with
some stranger’s intimate friends. One has to do one’s best to make sense of all
the inside references, names, places, and things that one would have no
reasonable reason to know” - Jonathen N. Barron
Here are some of his poems (my favs), and you can decide for yourself:

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.

Analysis: Okay, so I'm not going to analyze the whole poem, but basically what he is saying is that there are some similarities between painting and poetry, as different as the art forms may seem. They both start off with one idea, and end up writing/painting about something else. They also take some things from eachother; the painting uses the title (words) "Sardines" to convey a feeling, while the poet uses the color (like a painting does) "orange" to convey another. He plays with the dea that the weakness of poetry is that you cannot use immediate visuals to show the audience what you want them to see (to get his idea out, he ends up using pages and pages)- however, painting has the weakness of only having a limited space to get your message to the audience: a square canvas. This poem is also nice because Mike Gldberg and Frank O'Hara were friends in real life, and the poem is about a real painting by Goldberg (the one below):
Having a Coke with you

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluoresent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Analysis: Well, this poem starts off in a humorous manner; he starts of by saying that having a coke with you is more fun than vomiting in the streets of Spain! Then he mentions all the little details about his lover; his or her love for yughurt, their orange shirt, the way they smile together, that makes frank love them. In this way, he stays away from the cliche- he doesn't say how he's SO in love forever and ever and ever and ever like other poets do, but instead, he stays realistic which is why he just says "i love know, because i rather be here than sick to my stomach" and then later says "I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world...except for that one portait I love, to be honest I rather look at that!" He stays away from being too mushy or a hallmark card- he just writes honestly. He ontinues this idea when he starts to critize painters that pay so much attention to calculated proportions and form that they forget to choose subjects that are truly passionate to them- because O'hara believes that painting should be about passion, not being perfect. And so he sees flaws in all the master's paintings, because "they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank"


How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

Analysis: This poem is so funny but serious at the same time! He talks cynically about the world "the stabbings" but then keeps it upbeat by saying "hey, at least it helped the population explosion!" Then in the first stanza he talks about sex, everyone wants it, and says plainly "i just want you upstairs, now". And he continues to pull in funny situations and names and flaws in a huge run-on sentence, which sounds like the person would be reading this poem out of breath. The last stanza then sounds like a sign of relief: "oh god it's wonderful....and love you so much". It almost the only part of the poem that's crystal clear in meaning. After all the crazy things going on in the rest of the poem, the last stanza says, in my interpretation, that it's so good to have someone to be in love with, so that with all the hectic this in the world we can just sit upstairs, be in love (and in the moment), and forget about the world around us. It also seems like an expression of what O'hara believes love to be; a connection between two imperfect people, and an escape from the bad things in the world.

Thanks for reading! (and hope everyone had a great thanksgiving + black friday!)



Tina :) said...

Great post; his words are powerful!


Tru said...

hmmm i had never heard of him...i like him but i think i prefer plath or if you want something more modern buddy wakefield...i saw him live and he was beyond brilliant

UptownGirl said...

I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say it's awesome!

You write really well and have a very well educated insight on things.

Keep it up!


AusAnna said...

so great. poetry is art, fashion is art. poetry and fashion live and sing together. such a great post.

Raven said...

Your blog is great. =)

Glambition said...

This is so cool. I also had never heard of him, but you write in a very sophisticated and educated way. I'd love to trade links (:

Tony Toni Toné said...

yes indeed
his words are powerful!

i love you bloggg!
im following it,
make sure you follow mines=]

Charlotte said...

I did not know him but I have loved this. Thanks for sharing.

AFitz said...

I really got into Frank O'Hara a couple of months ago; I went to Teen Vogue's fashion u and stayed with a friend who goes to NYU, and he has this great collection of poetry. I was too tired to go out in the city after travelling all day so I just stayed in and read Lunch Poems all the way through.

Great blog; it's so nice to see people who are more eloquent than "here's my wishlist of stuff from urban outfitters!"

Brian said...

Frank's poetry reminds me a lot of The Great Gatsby for some reason. It think it has to do with the lens through which he sees life.

McCall said...

i looooove the top poem ♥

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