“POEM” by Frank O’Hara (Favorite Poem Project)

I first encountered this poem in college in a poetry appreciation class, and the Frank O’Hara poems that were in the book impressed me more than most of the others and I liked this particular poem because it seemed to express a feeling of anxiety and the hurriedness of everyday life in the city and it seemed to be the first thing I had read that talked a good deal about the tabloidization of our culture, and how life was getting away from our control and things of little importance were gaining more and more importance. I think that, in college, most people feel their life is a little bit out of control, and the voice in this poem is someone who is very definitely out of control, at least early on in it. I think that probably held some appeal for me. There’s a lot of poetry that talks about how stable and wonderful life is and the flowers are blooming, and this poem is from the opposite end of that spectrum, and I think that appealed to me as a college student, facing the future and not sure whether I was going to be racing like this poet, or going into the garden, as it were. “Poem” by Frank O’Hara Lana Turner has collapsed! / I was trotting along and suddenly /
it started raining and snowing and you said it was hailing /
but hailing hits you on the head / hard so it was really snowing and / raining and I was in such a hurry /
to meet you but the traffic /
was acting exactly like the sky / and suddenly I see a headline /
there is no snow in Hollywood / there is no rain in California /
I have been to lots of parties /
and acted perfectly disgraceful / but I never actually collapsed /
oh Lana Turner we love you get up / I love this poem because it almost directs itself. It pretty much demands that you read the first part quickly- the man is racing down the street and suddenly he’s stopped dead in his tracks by, probably, the day’s biggest event- but an event of little consequence. And then he starts thinking, “Well where’s the consequence?” Then he starts thinking, “Well it’s California, it’s Hollywood, it’s show business.” And the last thing anybody in that profession wants to do is collapse- it’s embarrassing- it’s going to make headlines. So he stands there and he says, “Lana, get up.” “You’re making us all look bad.” The Favorite Poem Project is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, fostering America’s creativity and investing in our living cultural heritage. Additional funding has been provided by the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, and by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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