Jan 12, 2010

Why I Am Not a Painter by Frank O'Hara : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

Why I Am Not a Painter by Frank O'Hara : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

A South Carolina guy, might be headed for the diner.

Today’s poem and comments began as a response to Barbaro’s recent response to my January 8 and 9 postings of Dickinson and Frost poems. Also, another regular, Gothpunkuncle, has in the past given me food for thought about the importance of context and culture compared to language (not that he’s choosing one over the other any more than I am). So after Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, I turn to Frank O’Hara’s “lunch poems.”

It all began like this, my attempt to respond to Barbaro on January 9:

Barbaro, your sentence on simplicity is LARGE. I agree, though I feel as if I’ve seen a lot of poetry that falls flat in the name of simplicity—which illustrates your very point.

Ditto your sentence on saying things wrong, more or less as a definition of creativity or originality. Didn’t you make a similar point about Bach a few months ago?

I can live without E.D.’s dashes, but I agree, it’s not the same. (By the way, did you see Paula and Gothpunkuncle’s important January 8 comments about Dickinson’s life and times? They gave me pause, not that I ever thought she was having a party for one up there in her Amherst room).

Thanks for the technical info too, Barbaro. At least on this reading, I had not noticed the sonnet biz in "Acquainted with the Night."

Do you think the experimental stuff in today's poetry—the stuff that seems to be re-examining language and old structures—ignores the endless possibilities of traditional forms? How many ways can you stretch a sonnet? More than a couple.

As you know, I’m not at all a bigot against free verse, and you might know I believe in the old saw, “If it works, it works,” for all the dangers there. But until the recent (and still minority) tilt toward neo-formalism (if that’s what they call it), I guess I assumed that some of the edgier poetry, the wilder, hipper-yet-more-talky voices out there, would have sent me to the children’s play room if I’d asked why they were transmogrifying poems into chatty prose, the likes of which I can hear at most diners.

Not that there’s anything wrong with diners. Some of my favorite food is served at diners--and certainly some of my favorite experiences. I often meet friends at diners. Our conversations can get pretty good, pretty deep, even pretty close to the bone. But I’ve never called them poetry.

Why I Am Not a Painter by Frank O'Hara : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


Brenda's Arizona said...

Transmogrifying? Ouch.
When is a dinner 'poetry'? What does it take? I sometimes think that some people find poetry only in solitude. And only after they find it, can they share it.

Could a gathering in a diner be free verse poetry?

I don't know many painters, but even I like drawing daises and characters from MAD magazine. I know the logistics of sonnets and iambic pentameter and quatrains, but most poetry I share isn't of such style.

I think O'Hara painted a picture that most artists couldn't paint. And I applaud his poetry too!

Thanks for sharing thoughts and poems. More!

PJ said...

I'm comfortable behind the camera in a way I'm never comfortable anywhere else.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, see the next post, which I think will go up today. You caused it, you troublemaker.

Paula, I'm pretty sure I know what you mean, but maybe you should elaborate about your intent before I go on and on.

Is this close or relevant?--I am not comfortable at most cocktail parties or "formal" dinner gatherings because of the kinds of, and topics of, conversation there. I'm guessing that your camera is a way of having a conversation with pieces of the world the two of you see together. (Here, I need to footnote a friend who teaches science and says science should be a conversation--or interview?--with nature).

PJ said...

I'm not trained to analyze literature so I can only look at it with my holistic brain. When I got through with the poem it occurred to me that they were doing the exact same work, just from their own POV. One prefers poetry, one painting. I wish I could express it in less literal way but that's not my gift.

Also, I take my camera with me nearly everywhere I go and that usually makes me more comfortable wherever I go.

Banjo52 said...

Paula, I think the holistic biz will get most readers far. Many times I've told students, "Write down the first few words that come to mind after reading this poem--twice silently and once aloud. Words like hot, warm, or cold, welcoming or hostile, forest or desert, city or suburb, mother or father. Now ask yourself what it is in the poem that caused those associations for you." It's surprising how often such a holistic acceptance of what "this" poem is for a reader can lead her to more understanding, including her acceptance of, confidence about, the fact that she hates it. Or she respects this or that, but it doesn't move her, has nothing to do with her life so far.

I don't know if I'm still talking to Paula.

I'm reluctant to talk about the technical aspects of poems, but I want people to see that those strategies exist. Still, I hate the fact that so many people think of poems as jigsaw puzzles, rubics (sp?) cubes, and such.

I don't think we get to say a poem means whatever we want it to mean (or NEED it to mean). But most of them will lead us home (which might mean rage at the poem, speaker, poet, as well as comfort, companionship) if we have the right kind of patient conversation with them.

Did I just say anything?

Lovers' Lane