It's the birthday of poet Frank O'Hara, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1926). He wanted to be a pianist when he was growing up, but while he was a student at Harvard, he met the poets John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch, and they persuaded him to write poetry too. He moved to New York City in 1951. He got a job selling post cards at the Museum of Modern Art, and he slowly worked his way up to become one of the curators.Here's a poem:
He fell in love with the abstract art of the 1950s, and he believed that poems should be improvisational, like action paintings. At the height of his career he wrote constantly and stuffed his poems into his desk drawers, often forgetting about them.
Frank O'Hara wrote, "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."
A Quiet Poem
When music is far enough away
the eyelid does not often move
and objects are still as lavender
without breath or distant rejoinder.
The cloud is then so subtly dragged
away by the silver flying machine
that the thought of it alone echoes
unbelievably; the sound of the motor falls
like a coin toward the ocean's floor
and the eye does not flicker
as it does when in the loud sun a coin
rises and nicks the near air. Now,
slowly, the heart breathes to music
while the coins lie in wet yellow sand.
The latest issue of APR's pretty good so far and includes: Stanley Kunitz, Katie Ford, Stephen Dunn, some new Lorca translations, and the second part of Steven Antinoff's essay "Spiritual Atheism." Here's a Dunn poem from the latest issue.
What I Might Say If I Could
You’re a Hutu with a machete, a Serb with orders,
you’re one more body in a grave they made you dig.
Or, almost worse, you’re alive to tell the story,
the most silent man on earth.
Here, rhododendrons are blooming, and cicadas
are waking from their long sleep.
I need not tell you how fast a good country
can become a hateful, hated thing.
Born in the wrong place at the wrong time
to parents wronged by their parents
and ruled by some crazed utopian with a plan--
no ice cream cone for you, no summer at the shore.
I know you can’t believe suffering leads to anything
but more suffering, or that wisdom waits
in some survivor’s room at the end of a hall.
What good to tell you that sometimes it does?
Sometimes has the future in it, and wisdom,
you must fear, is what victors think they have.
You can’t even be sure of a full bowl
of rice, and you’ve forgotten how to sing.
Clouds with periods of sun, says our weatherman.
Unlike some of us, he never intends to lie.
Many here who look no further than their yards
believe God has a design.
from American Poetry Review, July/August 2006