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Lunch Poems

Guest post from our pal, Brian, on how one of my favorite poets of the 60s captured interstitial time to make art. —mdm

At the late late party after party we were talking about how you know if you're a writer. I suggested that actually writing routinely was the tip off. Then someone had a better idea: that writers are those who feel guilty about not writing. A first-world problem, to be sure, but if you know any working writers, one of their most beloved hobby horses is that they just don't have time to write. Students, money, speaking engagements, lint, bacon, the Cubs, morning sex. So many things between them and great sentences.

Frank O'Hara didn't seem to have this problem. He made it a point not to be a professional poet, but to write poems and essays and catalog introductions and letters and his own life in the due course of long days he filled equally with chatter, lunches, working at the MOMA, talking on the phone. Kenneth Burke called literature equipment for living, and O'Hara never put his away. He was always making. Sometimes poems, sometimes friends.

He has a slim book of work called Lunch Poems, and you might think of that as his primary mode of composition. While out walking from the museum to get lunch, he'd do a poem. Maybe he'd type it up and stick it in a drawer later. I'm pretty sure that one of my favorites of his (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!) was drafted during a ferry ride en route to read with Robert Lowell. That is balls. And it's also a better lesson than maybe any one of O'Hara's works: your creative life is part of your life. When making things is just another open window, you've won.

Here's O'Hara reading Lana Turner.

About brianoberkirch

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Brian Oberkirch lives on the Gulf Coast & thinks about writing, food and the Web quite often.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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