Monday, December 20, 2010

Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems: "Adieu to Norman, Bonjour to Jean and Jean-Paul"

I'm writing about Charles Simic, formerly #92 on my list of my hundred most influential writers, now #93 (I forgot L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books, and the list is sort of chronological). Simic is important to me because of Dime-Store Alchemy, his book of prose poems about Joseph Cornell. So I am spending all this time trying to date and identify the origin of my obsession with Cornell. In my search, I'm reading through the blog I kept when I lived in Brooklyn,, and I found this poem,, from Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems. I went to all that work to type it in (I tried to just put in three lines:

but it is good to be several floors up in the dead of night
wondering whether you are any good or not
and the only decision you can make is that you did it

but realized "okay, except you really have to read the whole thing,") and as always, I learned so much from writing the poem over again--it forces you to read it in a different way, to interact with the words and the language more and differently than you would otherwise. Anyway, I decided that since I went to all that work, and since the poem continues to be so wonderful and so true, here it is again:


It is 12:10 in New York and I am wondering
if I will finish this in time to meet Norman for lunch
ah lunch! I think I am going crazy
what with my terrible hangover and the weekend coming up

at excitement-prone Kenneth Koch's
I wish I were staying in town and working on my poems
at Joan's studio for a new book by Grove Press
which they will probably not print
but it is good to be several floors up in the dead of the night
wondering whether you are any good or not
and the only decision you can make is that you did it

yesterday I looked up the rue Fremicourt on a map
and was happy to find it like a bird
flying over Paris et ses environs
which unfortunately did not include Seine-et-Oise which I don't know

as well as a number of other things
and Allen is back talking about god a lot
and Peter is back not talking very much
and Joe has a cold and is not coming to Kenneth's
although he is coming to lunch with Norman
I suspect he is making a distinction
well, who isn't

I wish I were reeling around Paris
instead of reeling around New York
I wish I weren't reeling at all
it is Spring the ice has melted the Ricard is being poured

we are all happy and young and toothless
it is the same as old age
the only thing to do is simply continue
is that simple
yes, it is simple because it is the only thing to do
can you do it
yes, you can because it is the only thing to do
blue light over the Bois de Boulogne it continues
the Seine continues
the Louvre stays open it continues it hardly closes at all
the Bar Americain continues to be French
de Gaulle continues to be Algerian as does Camus
Shirley Goldfarb continues to be Shirley Goldfarb
and Jane Hazan continues to be Jane Freilicher (I think!)
and Irving Sandler continues to be the balayeur des artistes
and so do I (sometimes I think I'm "in love" with painting)
and surely the Piscine Deligny continues to have water in it
and the Flore continues to have tables and newspapers and people
under them
and surely we shall not continue to be unhappy
we shall be happy
but we shall continue to be ourselves everything continues to be possible
Rene Char, Pierre Reverdy, Samuel Beckett it is possible isn't it
I love Reverdy for saying yes, though I don't believe it


1 comment:

Jeff Roberts said...

Baby Eel and Frank O'Hara

A baby eel dropped by the Modern
today, at noon. The eel
and Frank left together to grab
a bite and feel the sun on one side
of each of their pale faces. Frank wrote
another delicious lunch poem about
the time the eel and Kynaston McShine
danced the rhumba at The Old Place
while Joe laughed about the eel having
one left foot and how quickly he would
be able to steal the eel from KS
and dance him up to 9th street
on puddles on the sidewalks at dawn.