Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems

Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems

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by Frank O'Hara, Mark Ford
     
 
Frank O’Hara (1926–1966) was one of the most original and influential American poets of the twentieth century. Although he grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts, O’Hara developed into the quintessential poet of mid-century Manhattan; soon after his arrival in New York in 1951 he evolved a new kind of urban poetry that brilliantly captures the heady

Overview

Frank O’Hara (1926–1966) was one of the most original and influential American poets of the twentieth century. Although he grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts, O’Hara developed into the quintessential poet of mid-century Manhattan; soon after his arrival in New York in 1951 he evolved a new kind of urban poetry that brilliantly captures the heady excitements of a golden period in the city’s artistic life. O’Hara’s style exudes an insistent, seductive glamour; his mercurial poems, at once open-ended and startlingly immediate, radiate an insouciant confidence that has lost none of its freshness over the decades. O’Hara was at the heart of a vibrant artistic circle that embraced fellow New York School poets John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, as well as experimental painters such as Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Jasper Johns. Their achievements are movingly celebrated in many of his poems, while at the same time he paid loving tribute to popular idols such as James Dean and Lana Turner:

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly it started raining and snowing and you said it was hailing but hailing hits you on the head hard so it was really snowing and raining and I was in such a hurry to meet you but the traffic was exactly like the sky and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties and acted perfectly disgraceful but I never actually collapsed oh Lana Turner we love you get up

This generous new selection by Mark Ford reflects all the phases and varied achievements of O’Hara’s tragically foreshortened career, including his drama, and is followed by an appendix of key prose texts such as “Personism,” in which O’Hara succinctly summed up his overall approach to poetry: “You just go on your nerve.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sensitively chosen and intelligently introduced . . . Ford’s selection makes it possible to see more clearly how inward O’Hara’s poetry was at its best . . . For O’Hara a poem was truthful when it was personal . . . [His] elegies succeed because long after he discarded any religious belief in immortality, he retained the aesthetic sensibility that took it seriously.”
—Edward Mendelson, The New York Review of Books

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307268150
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/26/2008
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

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 grey 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 my heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.



The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York, a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just strollinto the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing



Having a Coke With You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Traversa 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 fluorescent 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 for 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 marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

Meet the Author

Mark Ford has published several volumes of poetry and is the author of the critical biography Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and London Review of Books; he teaches in the English department at University College London.

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Frank O'Hara: Poems From the Ribor de Nagy Editions, 1952-1966 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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