A lot of people have been coming here lately to read Frank O’Hara’s Having A Coke With You. I’ll be honest: it surprised me, as I was perfectly content to be here in my corner and keep quiet. I’ve been posting his work for years and it’s always just the two of us. I can’t deny that it unsettled me a little bit, enough to think I should pack up and move elsewhere (I try to keep everything intensely small), but I also like how there’s a surge of interest in a poet I have loved all these years. It wasn’t until a few comments later when I realized that the said poem had been read in a movie recently (well, a few months ago I think; yes, I’m always late to the party, apparently).
So, answers to your questions: No, I haven’t seen it. No, I don’t think I will see it. No, poetry is not dead! I’m sorry, but I think the people who assume and say that are the people who don’t read it, are not actively seeking it, or just don’t understand how poetry works, and its role in our lives. No, I’m not particularly satisfied at O’Hara’s poem’s ‘mainstream appearance’ (your words, not mine), but from what I’ve read of him, he will probably be a bit amused at the attention (I could be wrong though; but in my head we are friends). Yes, he is one of my favourite poets. Yes, I am glad that the movie has made you discover him, and that it brought you here. No, I don’t enjoy the spike in traffic, but now that you’re here, I want to interest you into reading some more poetry.
If you ask me, one should see (instead) Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête – it is a masterpiece and has inspired one of my favourite composers, Philip Glass to write an opera. (Hey, it inspired Stevie Nicks, too.) Also, I loved the old Beauty and the Beast TV series, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman; the theme song, The First Time I Loved Forever, includes spoken verses from e.e. cummings’ somewhere i have never travelled. Listen to that here.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for quite awhile, but have no motivation to do so until someone finally declared abomination, which made me laugh. I hope the interest doesn’t stop there, with just one poem, and I hope you discover that Frank O’Hara has a lot more beautiful work than the one you heard in the movie theater. Here, let me show you something very dear to me:
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
This is from The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen, published by Vintage Books, 1974.
I have also dug up a few more from the archives, so here you go.