Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"It is next to my flesh, that's why"

It is next to my flesh,
that's why. I do what I want.
And in the pale New Hampshire
twilight a black bug sits in the blue,
strumming its legs together. Mournful


     glass, and daisies closing. Hay 
     swells in the nostrils. We shall go
     to the motorcycle races in Laconia
     and come back all calm and warm.

For me there is an ineradicable element of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the poetry of Frank O'Hara, and not merely for its power of time and place. Ever since adolescence - that unimpeachable age of criticism - there has been a lot of the erotic for me, in the writer who could say in A Blithedale Romance, that there was no petal folded, no dew-drop latent in Zenobia. But then I felt that way then about how the telephone directory gathered all the Smiths in one place, each one an enthralling layer of new oral sensations, with quite a lot of alliteration when one got to Alan. What else was erotic, and may I say ebullient in Hawthorne for me, I did much later find in O'Hara - a self-consciousness of constituting a new voice, and a lack of remorse in doing so; an awareness of being with people who were making a new thing, and one of them.

And there is another reason why one appreciates so very much the poetry of Frank O'Hara. He is from me as distant as I am from the extracts I invoke here; and he didn't reach me by imagining who I'd be. He did his work.

He did his part, you could say. More than as a Fourierist in expressionism's arcadia, he was a villager of time, malgré lui. He did what they do, renewing the invention of the bloodstream.

Frank O'Hara
A Raspberry Sweater
Donald Allen, editor
The Collected Poems
  of Frank O'Hara
op. cit.


  1. very nicely stated.

  2. You're kind to say. I hope this perspective can help people to respect both of these artists, much more than we often do, when one is relegated to schoolbooks and when schools ban the other.