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The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

Chapter:
(p.109) The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara
Source:
One Kind of Everything
Author(s):
Dan Chiasson
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226103846.003.0005

Frank O'Hara's poems are distinguished by their exuberance, their conversational rapidity, and their humor. His poetry was “abstract” in that it embodied action, accident, and bustle. The “foundness” of O'Hara's poems, the trace they seem to leave of their own making, their grace under self-generated pressure—have been used to tie him to some of the techniques of contemporary painting, and especially to abstract expressionism. All aspects of O'Hara—his “personality,” his impudence, the rapidity of his compositional method, his affinities with the action painters, his love of realia—add up to a style as seemingly aleatory, as open to contingency and swerve, as any in American poetry. To understand the status of painting in O'Hara's poetics, it is crucial first to see O'Hara's love for painting as the enactment of a preference for one thing, painting, over another, music. O'Hara's poems have often been invoked to repudiate the conventions of autobiography. One of O'Hara's most widely anthologized poems is “The Day Lady Died,” an elegy for Billie Holiday.

Keywords:   Frank O'Hara, autobiography, American poetry, elegy, painting, music, The Day Lady Died, abstract expressionism, realia, humor

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