Frank O’Hara is my favorite poet and now that I live in New York City I think about him all the time and sometimes in my head I try to write like him and ignore punctuation or moderation completely.
To me, no poet encapsulates the true wonder of New York City like he did. Because the city’s beauty is its frenetic energy, the want (need?) to get up, walk around, observe, laugh, moan, and whatever else. There’s enough going on in one city block for your own personal run through of a dozen emotions. Minimum.
One of my favorite poems by O’Hara is titled ‘Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and John Paul‘ which starts headlong and right into his lunch break at just past noon in New York City. The narrator is struck in the first stanza by the immediate need to figure out whether he can make lunch on time while almost simultaneously fretting about leaving the city for the weekend and not working on his poems. It’s the classic trap of summertime productivity, where one must think about the dismissal of creative duty in order to enjoy the fruits of metropolitan and coastal living.
It’s classic O’Hara and he made a living out of writing poems that explore this very quandary and the life that exists in the short-lived panic of wondering if you’ll be punctual. That mixed with the larger, more existential panic of what parts of life are worth living and when. It’s just one reason I love his writing so much—he can blow a minute up to a lifetime or make a minute as meaningless as any other.
The rest of the poem is a departure though. The narrator speaks of looking up a street in Paris and then rumbles into a set of stanzas about the nature of change—what exists always as is and what has changed. He himself has changed and is exploring the possibilities of where he could be or what he might be doing.
But then he arrives at a simple mandate:
the only thing to do is simply continueis that simpleyes, it is simple because it is the only thing to docan you do ityes, you can because it is the only thing to do
and surely we shall not continue to be unhappywe shall be happybut we shall continue to be ourselves everything
everythingcontinues to be possibleRené Char, Pierre Reverdy, Samuel Beckett it is possible isn’t itI love Reverdy for saying yes, though I don’t believe it