Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.

Frank O’Hara
Meditations in an Emergency

Autobiographia Literaria

September 20, 2018

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.
I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.
If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out “I am
an orphan.”
And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!

Frank O’Hara


With its unusual contemporaneity, (Frank) O’Hara’s poetry is a good example of what Ezra Pound meant when he said “literature is news that STAYS news.” It’s not hard to imagine that O’Hara would have been thrilled by the unusual afterlife his poetry has enjoyed in the 50 years since his death. Despite his notoriously casual attitude toward collecting and publishing his work, O’Hara always had one eye on posterity. “How am I to become a legend, my dear?” he asks in “Meditations in an Emergency.” He was convinced that inferior work would eventually vanish – “It’ll slip into oblivion without my help,” he once said, explaining why he declined to bash poetry he didn’t like. At the same time, as one can see in poems such as “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island,” which eerily looks ahead to his poetry’s posthumous life, O’Hara felt that truly great art finds a way to survive as it reaches down through time, altering and being altered by successive generations of readers, the words of the dead forever being “modified in the guts of the living,” as Auden said in his elegy for Yeats.

Andrew Epstein
Also a Poet

Why I Am Not A Painter

June 22, 2015


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.

Frank O’Hara

“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.”

Frank O’Hara