Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Frank O'Hara is a major poet for many reasons that can be and are in fact argued when poetry lovers of different loyalties get together to dispute reality and slice up their share of the muse's lavishly set table. What that last sentence means exactly, especially the last flourish, is unknown even to me, and this is not the place to speculate  or suggest subtext or subversion. Frank O'Hara is a favorite of mine because he is , after all, A MAJOR POET   who wrote masterfully about the momentary thrills and  anxieties of being a nervous, fretful, art loving man in love with the city who, like wise, could make his discomfort in unavoidable urban annoyances--traffic jams, bad waiters, boring posers--into occasions to elevate himself with the joys he knows he , in fact, possesses, As in song,a moan is turned into music, the idea of being stuck and uncertain turns into succinct, near haiku meditations on eroticism, companionship, the nearness of another'. 

I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab
which is typical
and not just of modern life
mud clambers up the trellis of my nerves
must lovers of Eros end up with Venus
muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you
how I hate disease, it’s like worrying
that comes true
and it simply must not be able to happen
in a world where you are possible
my love
nothing can go wrong for us, tell me

 O'Hara did this constantly--hundreds of short lyrics, or half lyrics, as it were, Sapphoesque scraps . The flush of dread   over the nervous system becomes the rush of anticipated delight in friends, talk, drink, love. This, we may judge, is not the best O'Hara could do as a writer,  but that is exactly the point for its composition; much can be made too much of an artist's process as it relates to a larger body of work and the community it resides, but the charm here, the beauty itself, is what I'd call a fine attempt to express a sensation that defies anyone's ability to capture . O'Hara's poem, simply called "Song" with no other words of grandiose teasing, falls short as well,  ultimately. But it is a terrific near miss, succesful enough to get one thinking about why one keeps reading again after  thirty years since one first sat down with the Collected Poems of this modern master. 


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