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One Kind of EverythingPoem and Person in Contemporary America$
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Dan Chiasson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226103815

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226103846.001.0001

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The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

(p.109) The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara
One Kind of Everything

Dan Chiasson

University of Chicago Press

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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