Frank O’Hara and Grace Hartigan†
Frank O’Hara (1926 – 1966) was an American poet and writer, who I discovered only recently. I couldn’t decide which of his poems to share, so after a series of meetings and an excruciating conflict-resolution process, I decided to share three.
To The Harbormaster, is the first poem in the collection entitled, Meditations in an Emergency (1957). I’m not sure that I would have fallen in love with this poem as I did, had it not reminded me so much – in a ‘like-unlike’ sense – of Invictus, which I’ve posted hereon before.
To the Harbormaster
I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.
The following poem is hard not to love. I especially lub’ it because it reminds me of ee cummings, for obvious reasons.
Les Etiquettes jaunes
I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
this seems childish.
Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!
As if there were no
such thing as integrity!
You are too relaxed
to answer me. I am too
frightened to insist.
Leaf! don’t be neurotic
like the small chameleon.
Third and finally, For Grace, After A Party. I distinctly remember muttering an audible, “huh . . .” when I first read this poem. While it is not ‘dazzling,’ it did make me sit up and take Frank’s poetry seriously in a small “p” political sense. There is a certain earnest responsibility to this poem, which is something that I still find myself searching for with ee cummings. There is something about the unaesthetic honesty that completely makes this poem. If that makes sense.
For Grace, After A Party
You do not always know what I am feeling.
Last night in the warm spring air while I was
blazing my tirade against someone who doesn’t
me, it was love for you that set me
and isn’t it odd? for in rooms full of
strangers my most tender feelings
bear the fruit of screaming. Put out your hand,
an ashtray, suddenly, there? beside
the bed? And someone you love enters the room
and says wouldn’t
you like the eggs a little
And when they arrive they are
just plain scrambled eggs and the warm weather
† I found this photograph on a lovely page, Memories of Frank.