If you were talking to someone who’d never read Frank O’Hara before but was interested in trying him out, what are a couple poems you would recommend? When and how did you start reading O’Hara? Lately I’ll read something by Joe Brainard or Bernadette Mayer or Frank O’Hara or another person from ‘the New York School’ and it sounds really familiar to me, even though these poems are more than 50 years old. What do you appreciate about Frank O’Hara’s writing, what about it attracts you as a reader?
I found Frank O’Hara’s selected poems in a used bookstore when I was about 20. I didn’t know who he was but for some reason, I started reading.
It was the first time I had ever felt really excited about poetry. The first time that poetry had made me feel as good as rap music does. I felt amazed by him. I still do. There are so many lines that just run through my head like screensavers.
‘I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love’
‘How terrible orange is / and life’
‘Now I am quietly waiting for / the catastrophe of my personality / to seem beautiful again, / and interesting, and modern’
‘Partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yogurt’
‘I look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world’
‘Pain always produces logic which is very bad for you’
‘I know you love Manhattan, / but you ought to look up more often’
‘You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.”’
His work has a sense of wonderment which just feels so essential to me. I felt like I had been waiting my whole life to have the conversations you can have with his poetry. And that’s how he wrote. It’s in his manifesto, ‘Personism’,
‘I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. ‘
A few months ago I read his poem, ‘St Paul and All That’ for the first time. I don’t know how I had gone for so long without reading it before, but it felt so exciting to me because I thought that I had already read almost everything he had written. It felt serendipitous also, because the poem seemed aligned, somehow, with what was happening in my own life.
I’m smiling, thinking of this.
The poem that really made me fall in love with him in the beginning, was Steps.
‘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’
It would be so cool if somebody read this interview and then got to know about Frank O’Hara.
I’m that person. I’m on that Frank O’Hara shit now.
Read this whole thing though. Lucy is an amazing mind/talent and seems like a real chill-ass person. I respect the hell out of her and her thoughts and her tastes.