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1. Meditations in an Emergency
2. The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
3. Poems Retrieved
4. Digressions on Some Poems By Frank
5. Lunch Poems (City Lights Pocket
6. Selected Poems
7. Frank O'Hara: Poet Among Painters
8. City Poet: The Life and Times
9. Frank O'Hara Now: New Essays on
10. Art Chronicles: 1954-1966
11. In Memory Of My Feelings
12. William Carlos Williams, Frank
13. Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie
14. Homage To Frank O'Hara
15. Early Writing
16. Selected Poems
17. Hyperscapes in the Poetry of Frank
18. Selected Poems
19. Amorous Nightmares of Delay (PAJ
20. The First Time I Met Frank O'Hara:

1. Meditations in an Emergency
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 52 Pages (1996-04-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802134521
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Frank O’Hara was one of the great poets of the twentieth century and, along with such widely acclaimed writers as Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry, “which, by its vitality alone, became the dominant force in the American poetic tradition.”

Frank O’Hara was born in Baltimore in 1926 and grew up in New England; from 1951 he lived and worked in New York, both for Art News and for the Museum of Modern Art, where he was an associate curator. O’Hara’s untimely death in 1966 at the age of forty was, in the words of fellow poet John Ashbery, “the biggest secret loss to American poetry since John Wheelwright was killed.” This collection is a reissue of a volume first published by Grove Press in 1957, and it demonstrates beautifully the flawless rhythm underlying O’Hara’s conviction that to write poetry, indeed to live, “you just go on your nerve.”
... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
An example of beatnik-type poetry of the 1950s. Much of the material grips you but other parts make you feel like the poem is part of an inside joke you are never going to get. Good without being gripping. Good poetry.

5-0 out of 5 stars very good conditon - like new, very pleased.
This is a hard book to locate, and was so glad to have it offered here. I am very satisfied with the book, it is in excellent shape.thanks!!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars So Mad Men
If you wondered what Don Draper was reading and why he got that far away look in his eye then your curiosity is much like mine. I had to know. Meditations In An Emergency is that book.Frank O'Hara was the voice that spoke to the madness, the chaos, and the contradictions in the cultural transition between 50's and 60's America. He was one of the best poets of the twentieth century and along with writers like Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry.
O'Hara's poetry is vital, raw, gritty, and extremely moving.

And Don Draper is thinking:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the castastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

3-0 out of 5 stars A book of poems
I was neither bored nor exalted by this book of poems. The collection was so-so to me.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again and interesting and modern...
The country is gray and brown and white and trees. Snows and skies of laughter always diminishing.

Less funny, not just darker, not just gray.

It may be the coldest day of the year. What does he think of that...I mean, what do I?

And if I do...perhaps I am myself again."

The above was quoted from the voice over narration at the end of the second season premiere of "Mad Men" on AMC.

I had never heard of Frank O'hara or "Meditations in an Emergency" before, but the words Mr O'Hara created have filled me with wonder and awe.

When it becomes available again I intend to purchase this book in the hope that there may be even more words that will have a similar effect contained within it.
... Read more

2. The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 586 Pages (1995-03-31)
list price: US$28.95 -- used & new: US$13.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0520201663
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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first paperback edition, intro John Ashbery ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars He Gives Me Permission To Write (from Ahadada Books)
One test of a fine poet for other poets is that she or he makes you want to write your own poems and gives you permission and the tools to do so.Frank O'Hara does this for me, as well as Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Lautreamont, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Patrick Kavanaugh, Geoffrey Hill, Diane di Prima and others.When I begin to hit patches of rocky ground in my imagination and the hammer of Los falls from my hand, I reach for Frank O'Hara to find permission to write a clean line celebrating art and music and friends and day to day life.His intelligence, his incredible style, his crazily optimistic American/international take on things, beams through.I first came to O'Hara's work through Lunch Poems, which is about as great a crystalization as possible to be had of this man's talent, but the Collected, too, which includes O'Hara's trying out of poses and voices and inventing just about every style that New York poets have been using since, is useful to have in the same way that the complete Leaves of Grass, or Blake, or Dickinson is useful to have.Uneven perhaps in parts, redundant, but even the least typical is instructive: a tool box, if you will, filled with tools (habits of language)with which to craft your own poems.Definitely deserving a place on the shelves of any working poet's library, alongside Lunch Poems and the Poet among the Painters biography.Five stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars The F. Scott Fitzgerald of Poets
Normally, I am not a fan of poetry. I am a fictional prose fan who often gets tangled up in the abstractions of poetry. With the exception of Rimbaud and WC Williams, I usually leave poetics of any kind to someone else. However, when I finished up a queer theory class with a reading of Frank O'Hara's poetry, I was absolutely stunned at his surprising way with words. I was transported back to my first reading of The Great Gatsby where I fell in love with (became obsessed with) Fitzgerald's poetic prose. Fraught with images of pop culture and constructions of post industrialism, O'Hara makes beautiful the images of the mundane. I find myself getting excited at the prospect of reading more of his stuff (he was very prolific)and learning more about his life and times.
If poetry scares you, this might be the very best place to start in gaining an appreciation. I have become a lifelong fan of O'Hara and this book is wholly responsible for that.

5-0 out of 5 stars The missing link
Here's an idea for Ph.D. candidates in American Lit, searching for that breakthrough dissertation topic: Frank O'Hara was the (almost-literal) bridge between, on the one hand, the high aethestic seriousness that began in English with Wilde, and culminated in early Modernists like Hart Crane, Eliot and Wallace Stevens; and on the other, what we might call the pan-aesthetic, media-saturated 'hyper-culture' of serious early 21st-century thought, which is equally at ease in poetry, movies, pop music, foreign cultures, the avant-garde, and cartoons -- and blurs the barriers between all of them.

Frank did it first, in case you were wondering.He was as funny as Wilde and as dead-serious as Stevens, plus as silly as a Tarzan movie (which he loved).A hard set of balls to juggle, but juggle them he did, and brilliantly.

For those who think this poetry is too 'casual' to be ranked as first-class, consider the following: Frank was arguably the most cultured man in America in his generation.An art curator, skilled classical pianist, Harvard grad and Navy veteran, fluent in several languages, he basically had all of English and French poetry saved to hard disk in his brain, as well as the last 400 years of Western painting and music.It's almost silly to think about.All of this material forms the background for his impressionistic, seemingly-flip meditations on rainy days, radios, painting, blueberry blintzes, Khrushchev, and love in all its manifold forms.But he's actually built a kind of socio-artistic City with this stuff: read one way, the Collected Poems is the autobiography of a culture at one of its critical historical moments (it's also the autobiography of an individual, and the autobiography of New York.)

In the great poems, the synthesis is utterly cosmic (and comic) in its scale and purpose; in the lesser poems, it's the cultural equivalent of a man lighting his cigars with $100 bills.

Frank more or less dispensed with the concept of the literary 'persona' (a la Ginsberg or Sexton or Berryman) and located his literary impulse within the personal Self.As a result, he re-discovered in literature what we all know in our hearts, but often forget: that the important crossroads of the political and the aesthetic, the public and the unconscious, is the Individual, with all his quirks and eccentricities, and vital importance to the fate of the Republic.If you meditate a while on the lesson, it maybe becomes more meaningful than the clumsy, obvious way that I've expressed it here.

Read Ginsberg's great poem "My Sad Self" (which he dedicated to O'Hara); it's the sound of Frank O'Hara's aesthetic being filtered through another man's consciousness, and then sent back to him.

"...and he will be the wings of an extraordinary Liberty"
-- O'Hara, 'Ode to Michael Goldberg's Birth'

This stuff is the secret pulse of the second half of the 20th century, as Eliot and Stevens were the pulse of the first.One way you can preserve it is to buy the book, and help keep it in print for the next generation.

3-0 out of 5 stars A superb poet, poorly presented--not a good place to start
For those less famililar with O'Hara there is only one place to start: City Lights' superb little pocket collection, "Lunch Poems."

This collection is enormous, and much of it--especially the early work--is not stylistically representative of his best and most well-known work.It is also dreadfully organized.The poems are not presented by date of publication or date written.Nor do the poems include either date.That information is in a separate index--organized, infuriatingly, by date.So unless you've memorized the year of each of the thousands of poems in this 600 page book, it's not terribly useful. I do hope this book is re-edited substantially for future publication.In the meantime, it will have to do.

At his best, Frank O'Hara's poems are wonderfully accessible, sparklingly natural, delightful, and have the ability to delicately carve out a perfectly captured nanosecond of living breathing space and time with insight and sincerity.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just plain indispensable.
When the critical dust really settles, I think O'Hara will be seen as a crucial American poet -- in the ranks of Whitman, Dickinson and Stevens.Cultured, perceptive, meaningful, playful, and always funny, he took American poetry light-years beyond the "well-made" poets of the midcentury, and the tormented stylings of the 'confessionals' (Lowell, Plath, Berryman et al.)

He introduced a new kind of literary voice into serious poetry: highly personal, specific, catty, generous, vivid and oddly friendly, with an unpretentious humor, and a sense of physical placement, that were often almost mystical.(See "A Step Away from Them.")He showed that you didn't have to be 'heavy' to be profound.In the process, this added an entirely new dimension to serious American writing, the effects of which are still only starting to be understood -- and not just in poetry, but in other forms, too.

Frank could do it all: existential crisis ("1951," "Adieu to Norman..."); artistic meditation ("Ode on Causality"); high erotic comedy ("To the Film Industry in Crisis," "Ave Maria," and the minor, but inspired, "The Lay of the Romance of the Associations"); and poignant confusion ("Getting Up Ahead of Someone (Sun)".And this is not listing the famous "I-do-this-I-do-that" poems, or the transcendent "A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island".

(One caveat for newcomers to this work: the book was compiled and edited by Donald Allen after Frank's sudden death.Mr. Allen scrupulously, and wisely, chose to include all of the materials he found, not making any editorial judgements about quality.But the fact is that O'Hara was an uneven writer, and about 20% of these poems are, well, pretty bad.You just have to exercise some caution, and avoid making snap judgements.There are classics on the same page as duds, and sometimes a 'dud' changes into a classic, right before your eyes, after you've gotten the hang of how to read O'Hara.)

Whew.Sorry about the length.

It is amazing to still hear people accuse this work of being 'shallow' (O'Hara had actually found a way of being meaningful in a different tonal range); nonetheless the charge is easily refuted by reading, say, "Ode to Willem de Kooning," or "Joe's Jacket."The best answer comes from Frank himself, at the close of "Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets":

"The only truth is face to face, the poem whose words become your mouth,
And dying in black and white, we fight for what we love, not are."

Don't miss it. ... Read more

3. Poems Retrieved
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 272 Pages (2001-01-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$12.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0912516194
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
This volume completes the publication of all the poems Frank O'Hara wrote between 1950 and his tragic death in 1966.

"It's the Blue," a previously uknown verse satire, and a poem meditation on a painting by Philip Guston are included in this revised edition.

"O'Hara the quintessential Postmodernist . . . His work is a kind of watershed, a culmination of the Modernists' efforts to exploit the city, and a prototype of the poetry to come." â€"Neal Bowers, author of Frank O'Hara: To Be True to a City ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A fitting title
Frank O'Hara had a very definite conception of poetry (read the wonderful essay "Personism: a manifesto" included at the end of his Collected Poems).As a result of his convictions he often wrote a poem and gave it away immediately to a friend, acquaintance - whomever he had written it for, or about, or who he felt should have it.
This is all relevant becuase once his Collected Poems were published many people came forward with more of his poems that he had given them etc.(some of them on bar napkins - how wonderful!)These newly found poems are what comprise "Poems Retrieved."
Frank O'Hara is truly one of the most important and wonderful poets of this (or any) century and I'm happy that his influence is coming back into vogue amongst good poets. ... Read more

4. Digressions on Some Poems By Frank O'Hara: A Memoir
by Joe LeSueur
Paperback: 336 Pages (2004-04-21)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374529043
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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An unprecedented eyewitness account of the New York School, as seen between the lines of O'Hara's poetry

Joe LeSueur lived with Frank O'Hara from 1955 until 1965, the years when O'Hara wrote his greatest poems, including 'To the Film Industry in Crisis', 'In Memory of My Feelings', 'Having a Coke with You', and the famous Lunch Poems-so called because O'Hara wrote them during his lunch break at the Museum of Modern Art, where he worked as a curator. (The artists he championed include Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell, Grace Hartigan, Jane Freilicher, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Rauschenberg.) The flowering of O'Hara's talent, cut short by a fatal car accident in 1966, produced some of the most exuberant, truly celebratory lyrics of the twentieth century. And it produced America's greatest poet of city life since Whitman.

Alternating between O'Hara's poems and LeSueur's memory of the circumstances that inspired them, Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara is a literary commentary like no other--an affectionate, no-holds-barred memoir of O'Hara and the New York that animated his work: friends, lovers, movies, paintings, streets, apartments, music, parties, and pickups. This volume, which includes many of O'Hara's best-loved poems, is the most intimate, true-to-life portrait we will ever have of this quintessential American figure and his now legendary times.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Portrait of an era more than an artist
This book is enthralling, exciting, and poignant despite how poorly written it is.LeSueur was a Kato Kaelin figure in the NY School of poets and Abstract Expressionists.He lived with O'Hara and sometimes found odd jobs between months of unemployment checks.Not an artist himself, he was companion to the social events of the poets and painters.He tried his hand at authoring pulp paperbacks and soap opera episodes, but was best at being a consort.Although he pays lip service to his vanity and failure to contribute much more than the pretty face that is depicted in more photos in this volume than O'Hara's is, LeSueur never rises above the vanity.The digressions here are ramblings one imagines were not written but conveyed to the microphone of an interested party (himself?).Rather than Proustian, the chapters contain reminiscence within reminscence, within reminiscence, before circling back to the point of the chapter. For anyone not familiar with the wide cast of characters referred to by first name in the book, it may be difficult to keep all the Joes straight.

Despite the wretched writing, or maybe because of it, the NY scene of the late 40s to late 50s comes vividly to life.A reader feels transported to the Manhattan and Long Island of the time, seeing how vibrant the pre-Factory artists' collaborations were, how entertaining the social life, how dedicated the artists.Frank O'Hara stands as one of many in the book, a participant in the social drama LeSueur revelled in.Even though the book is less focused on O'Hara than the scene, one comes away with remarkable information about the poet's creative process, inspirations, and activities, if not his state of mind. Delis, barrooms, ballet performances, Hamptons drawing-room theater-- all are cinematically conveyed.The author cannot stray too far off topic because each chapter is anchored to something serious, namely excerpt of an O'Hara poem. The 60s are less clear, perhaps because LeSueur was being perceived as hanger-on by that point by so many, and was increasingly edged stage left.This book provides an invigorating counter-balance to the portraits of post-War suburban conformity and Grey-Flannel Madison Ave.

5-0 out of 5 stars Intriguing times, Intriguing Voice
I must agree with the above reviews.I picked up this memoir on a remainder table a year or so ago.I started it but put it down.I suppose I was not in the mood for it.Thankfully, it turned up in a pile somewhere a few days ago and I find myself absolutely engaged.I studied Frank O'Hara in college and always admired his matter-of-fact attitude toward his being gay (or queer as the term was then).JL's book reconfirms that point.O'Hara never was the doomed queen, a persona so common for that time (Tennessee Williams being the reigning royalty of that court).JL, it appears, had the same attitude toward his homosexuality:it simply was his preference.Beyond the queer studies angle, JL brings a wonderfully engaging voice to his memoir.It is, by turns, poetic, conspiratorial, wistful, humorous.So if you want to know more about O'Hara and his circle, read this book

5-0 out of 5 stars Yes, 5 stars.A great book.
Joe LeSueur's memoir of his friend and companion, is a truly illuminating portrait of the artist.What makes these digressions so rich and rewarding for the reader, is the unique perspective LeSueur is able to bring to this material.These are LeSueur's memories of experiences and events shared with O'Hara and their myriad of friends and acquaintances.I found this book to be compelling, intimate and inspiring (indeed, "Lunch Poems" and "Selected Poems" were never too far out of reach, and both read from cover to cover).By virtue of having been a participant or, at the very least having been an eye witness to the events depicted, LeSueur has captured not just a time and place, but the essence of a cherished friend.I found myself reading slowly, savoring each passage.By the end of the book I felt I had really gotten to know O'Hara and his circle of friends, and found myself in tears as I read the last few pages.LeSueur's memoir is a tribute to Frank O'Hara as both an artist and a beloved friend.

5-0 out of 5 stars When NY was the center of the art world and friends mattered
At Frank O'Hara's funeral, composer Virgil Thomsom turned to the poet's longtime friend Joe LeSueur and said, "Baby, I hope you kept a journal." Though clearly not drawing upon stale journal entries, LeSueur's memoir of his relationship with O'Hara (which survived the vicissitudes of its ever-changing status...friends to lovers to friends, etc.) is a nice blend of personal memories and feverish impromptu research (Brad Gooch's biography seems to have been ever at his elbow). LeSueur is neither vindictive nor pointlessly benign. He truly understood and appreciated O'Hara's central position in the explosion of art that was happening in New York in the 50s and 60s. Unlike Ginsberg and the Beat poets, O'Hara was equally at ease among literary folk, musicians, and painters (especially the abstract expressionists). To read about O'Hara is to read about the greatness of post-war New York.

DIGRESSIONS is actually helpful, too. Because O'Hara often adopted a casual, off-hand, personal approach when writing his poems, it is great to have someone who was intimate with the poet to explain "who's who" and "what's what." LeSueur, however, is equally comfortable admitting when he's baffled by an O'Hara reference, and explanations (and reminiscences) are never forced.

One other thing--DIGRESSIONS is an enlightening portrait of gay life in New York prior to the Stonewall riots. O'Hara and LeSueur were both openly gay, though they had quite different approaches to meeting their sexual needs. O'Hara seems to have had fewer partners, usually choosing them from his circle of friends and aquaintances. LeSueur seemed to favor one-night stands and casual sex. Perhaps this difference is one reasontheir friendship continued long after their sexual intimacy ended. If only LeSueur had lived long enough to write DIGRESSIONS ON GAY LIFE BEFORE STONEWALL.

5-0 out of 5 stars Much more than a memoir: a revelation
Joe LeSueur has provided the cultural history of American arts in the mid-20th Century with this seamlessly interesting and informative inside perspective on the important role of Frank O'Hara - poet, art critic, champion of the visual, musical, and literary arts par excellence.DIGRESSIONS ON SOME POEMS BY FRANK O'HARA is not only a clever and viable means to writing a memoir: it provides insights into the growingly important works of O'Hara who some are now ranking as the 20th century version of Walt Whitman as Poet of the City.While many of the poems introducing each chapter are well known to us, it is the window to the world of O'Hara's life and times that is so well served by Joe LeSueur's writing.Frank O'Hara was bonded with such luminaries as Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Larry Rivers, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, Grace Hartigan, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Lincoln Kirsten, WH Auden, Kenneth Koch - the list is endless.O'Hara was a behind the scenes observor, never hogging the limelight and in fact avoiding it, always with his keen eye on good art, good music, good writing, and always turning out poems that only now are being read seriously by the general public.Joe LeSueur live with O'Hara, joining O'Hara in his flagrantly 'Out' gay life, hobnobbing with all the other gay artists of his time in a way that makes him the recorder of that important preStonewall age, a time when even the giants such as Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, etc were closeted.At times LeSueur borders on the gossipy side, but that only enhances his subject.What we are left with here is a wonderfully composed tribute to a great artist and supporter of the arts.The overall effect of this book is monumental, and at the same time exceedingly conversational.Very Highly Recommended. ... Read more

5. Lunch Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets Series)
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 76 Pages (2001-01-01)
list price: US$8.95 -- used & new: US$4.41
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0872860353
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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lunchtime classic in the Pocket Poets series ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars having a coke with you
great small book of poems that you can whisk out and read on the run, at lunch, or during your cigarette break.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dazzling little book
Frank O'Hara's poems have become windows into a vibrant past, and to have this little book of some of his best is to have a portable time machine.

5-0 out of 5 stars a great one
buy this now. it's the essential frank o'hara. great choice to keep around for lulls in the day, or for when you're in need of a quick smile.

5-0 out of 5 stars Diversions and Daydreams
The perfect introduction to the poetry of O'Hara, "Lunch Poems" is a celebration of life in New York City with art, poetry, music, friends, and of course, the movies. This book contains 'Ave Maria' with the marvelous opening lines:

Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images...

I wish I could remember what generous soul suggested that I read this little book of poems in college, but my expression of gratitude remains unfulfilled. From "Lunch Poems" I tackled the collected poems and never looked back, eventually writing my senior year thesis on O'Hara and film. This little volume, however, retains a special place in my book collection since it was my first O'Hara and my first poetry book. My copy is worn from many trips on trains and airplanes - the perfect antidote to the mind-numbing experience we call travel. To paraphrase the last line of 'A Step Away From Them':

My heart is in my pocket, it is Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara.

4-0 out of 5 stars Book
Hello my literate friends.

I want to tell you something. This is a book of poems and I should not be writing a review for it. It is famous everywhere except here, and we are here. But I will tell you what you should know to buy this book. That is my job. Now that we have that clear.

These poems are beautiful and good. They are also talky, which is a word my friend Mark Halliday uses, which means that they might sometimes seem close to prose. They are called Lunch Poems because that is the idea, poems that you might compose on your lunch break, walking around New York with some change in your pocket, if you are Frank O'Hara. They seem silly sometimes, and they are, but they are not meaningless: they convey a voice which is suitable and believable and honest.

I think you will like this book.

I will tell you a secret: in my copy of this book, City Lights has increased (somehow) the font size, or the kerning or whatever, so that some lines run-over onto the next. In the original version this did not happen. This is a minor detail that I want to tell you about because you deserve to know. City Lights if you are reading this: hello, and, please fix it.

Thank you. ... Read more

6. Selected Poems
by Frank O'Hara
Hardcover: 288 Pages (2008-02-26)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$11.04
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B002QGSYB8
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Frank O’Hara (1926–1966) was one of the most original and influential American poets of the twentieth century. Although he grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts, O’Hara developed into the quintessential poet of mid-century Manhattan; soon after his arrival in New York in 1951 he evolved a new kind of urban poetry that brilliantly captures the heady excitements of a golden period in the city’s artistic life. O’Hara’s style exudes an insistent, seductive glamour; his mercurial poems, at once open-ended and startlingly immediate, radiate an insouciant confidence that has lost none of its freshness over the decades. O’Hara was at the heart of a vibrant artistic circle that embraced fellow New York School poets John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, as well as experimental painters such as Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Jasper Johns. Their achievements are movingly celebrated in many of his poems, while at the same time he paid loving tribute to popular idols such as James Dean and Lana Turner:

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 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

This generous new selection by Mark Ford reflects all the phases and varied achievements of O’Hara’s tragically foreshortened career, including his drama, and is followed by an appendix of key prose texts such as “Personism,” in which O’Hara succinctly summed up his overall approach to poetry: “You just go on your nerve.” ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars A split decision for the book group: Easy charm and pointed observations, or unstructured and over praised
At the May 2010 meeting, the gay book discussion group met at The LGBT Center in NYC and read a number of poems and discussed them.

I think that reading the poetry out loud, especially a couple of short poems that we read twice, helped. Most of the discussion revolved around the quick, easy nature of the poetry that seemed to flow out of O'Hara. A few of the participants did not care for the apparently unstructured and slightly rough form that much of the poetry took, but others of us were charmed by its clever language and pointed observations. The fact that the popular show "Mad Men" alluded to the popularity of Frank O'Hara's "Lunch Poems" clearly put him and his poetry in a very specific period of the pre-Stonewall 1960's.

Finally, the group split into two groups: those who learned to like the free-form poetry after some minor work, and those who continued to find it largely empty and hard to discern why --other than his NY art connections, fast alcoholic magnetism, and early death on Fire Island-- he became so admired. Many agreed that reading the poetry out loud and hearing others talk about it helped since it may not be immediately clear why O'Hara has such a popular following.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Volume
The book is an excellent collection of Frank O'Hara's poems, and is well organized. While I wouldn't consider this a definitive volume, it's certainly a nice book to keep around the coffee table.

5-0 out of 5 stars Selected Poems: An Excellent Introduction to the Poetic Genius of Frank O'Hara.
Frank O'Hara's (1926-1966) career as a New York poet began in the 1950s while he was working the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art.Influenced by Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Boris Pasternak, and Vladimir Mayakovsky, he was known to write his poetry during his lunch hour.With poems like "A Step Away From Them" (1951), he soon became the quintessential poet of Manhattan, and among the most influential contemporary poets in America. In 1960 he was promoted to Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum. He published his first volume of poems, A City Winter and Other Poems, in 1952, followed by six others before his untimely death at age 40 while vacationing on Fire Island on July 24, 1966.His 1957 book of witty, surrealist poetry, Meditations in an Emergency, currently figures prominently in the award-winning television series, Mad Men: Season 2.Selected Poems, edited by Mark Ford, offers a definitive collection of O'Hara's brilliant, urban verse, which is both provocative and deceptively accessible.Selected Poems attests to the fact that O'Hara's poetry remains both relevant and vital. Highly recommended.

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars What A Delicious Treat....
I had no idea who Frank O'Hara was until I stumbled upon this newly released book of selected poems. What a treat! The introduction gives readers a wonderful background on him, and each page is full of delicious little gems. He writes exactly what he thinks....and he's so fresh and creative. Makes you wander and think - which is the hidden gift.
With the holidays fast approaching or a special birthday coming up, Frank O'Hara Selected Poems is an ideal gift that you'll be proud to give. The recipient will thank you every time s/he reads one of these wonderful nuggets.

5-0 out of 5 stars the brink of explosive jubilance
Gracious, charming, witty, sassy, spontaneous, irreverent, joyful, campy, insouciant--Frank O'Hara's poetry always brings to mind the best sort of adjectives, those that celebrate life, even as it turns toward eulogy and lament. "No more dying," dares the refrain from O'Hara's "Ode to Joy," and Mark Ford, in editing this long-overdue new selection, has done the excellent and necessary task of dusting any traces of oblivion from O'Hara's oeuvre. As Ford notes in his succinct yet personable introduction, "even [O'Hara's] close friends were surprised at the extraordinary bulk of his Collected Poems when it appeared in 1971." The massiveness of the Collected was tempered in 1974 by the now out-of-print The Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Both of these volumes were edited by Donald Allen, who, in 1977, gathered two further collections, Poems Retrieved and Early Writing, which were comprised of work not appearing in either the Collected or Selected editions. For this new selection, Ford has culled work from these and all previous incarnations of O'Hara's published materials, and has thankfully opted, unlike the original Selected, to honor each poem with its own page. Also included are several of the seminal prose works and a useful short chronology. While the volume doesn't offer any newly unearthed, archeological treasures (we'll have to wait--as we have been for years!--for the letters), it does present a palpable and nicely packaged sampling of this important New York School poet. In an age where the ubiquity of information storage sparks in fledgling writers the solipsistic image of their own massive archives, O'Hara's notorious organizational nonchalance--indeed, even in keeping copies of his own poems--might seem odd; however, one need only open this book anywhere at random for evidence of life so full, so teetering on the brink of explosive jubilance, to make moot any concern for self-mythologizing beyond that already embedding within the poems.

(written for The Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. XXVIII, #2) ... Read more

7. Frank O'Hara: Poet Among Painters
by Marjorie Perloff
Paperback: 270 Pages (1997-12)
list price: US$22.00 -- used & new: US$20.75
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Asin: 0226660591
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Drawing extensively upon the poet's unpublished manuscripts--poems, journals, essays, and letters--as well as all his published works, Marjorie Perloff presents Frank O'Hara as one of the central poets of the postwar period and an important critic of the visual arts. Perloff traces the poet's development through his early years at Harvard and his interest in French Dadaism and Surrealism to his later poems that fuse literary influence with elements from Abstract Expressionist painting, atonal music, and contemporary film. This edition contains a new Introduction addressing O'Hara's homosexuality, his attitudes toward racism, and changes in poetic climate cover the past few decades.

"A groundbreaking study. [This book] is a genuine work of criticism. . . . Through Marjorie Perloff's book we see an O'Hara perhaps only his closer associates saw before: a poet fully aware of the traditions and techniques of his craft who, in a life tragically foreshortened, produced an adventurous if somewhat erratic body of American verse."--David Lenson, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Perloff is a reliable, well-informed, discreet, sensitive . . . guide. . . . She is impressive in the way she deals with O'Hara's relationship to painters and paintings, and she does give first-rate readings of four major poems."--Jonathan Cott, New York Times Book Review ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars This book has withstood test of time
This book, first published over twenty years ago, has certainly held up well. There are other books on O'Hara, but this remains the gold standard. ... Read more

8. City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara
by Brad Gooch
Paperback: 532 Pages (1994-06)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$72.99
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Asin: 0060976136
Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars
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Gooch presents a fascinating account of Frank O'Hara's life (1926-1966) and evokes the spirit and excitement of New York's literary and artistic underground in the '50s and '60s. "An intelligent, balanced, readable account of a writer's life and millieu."--Los Angeles Times. Photos. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as some would make out
This happens to be one of those heavy biographies that for better or worse include everything the author ever found out about his subject, much of which isn't worth recording. Biographers should learn that just because something's a fact doesn't make it interesting.Having said that, this book isn't without its virtues.I found the passages dealing with his interaction with artists and co-workers informative.It was very interesting to discover that O'Hara's college roommate was Edward Gorey - what an odd couple.Also, the details of O'Hara serving as Cecil Beaton's secretary were enjoyable.I did learn some things about O'Hara's sexual adventures that made me cringe (having lived through the plague years my view is compromised).Mr. Gooch has written a book full of facts and trivia - it's certainly a worthwhile chronicle of O'Hara's life.If you're looking for a more intimate portrait I recommend "Digression On Some Poems By Frank O'Hara," for a more academic look at his work look for "Poet Among Painters."

1-0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Bore
It's not surprising that Brad Gooch, a professional homosexual, writes a book that makes Frank O'Hara appear to be nothing more than another professional homosexual. Actually, Gooch may be right. O'Hara is an incredibly minor figure in American poetry, and this books devotes too much print to a third-rate writer who would probably best be forgotten.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brings you into the life of O'Hara
City Poet goes past the Frank O'Hara that readers get to know so well through his poetry. If you have read and enjoyed O'Hara's work, this book gives you the biographical background to bring your appreciation fullcircle. It is no quick read, but it allows you to appreciate the man behindthe words through meticulous interviews with everyone who knew him.

1-0 out of 5 stars Boring -- too much about sex
This book focused way too much on O'Hara's sex life and not enough on his work.The prose style is tedious, and I found myself skimming it through all the excruciating details about the poet's various lovers.The readersnoozes, O'Hara loses. ... Read more

9. Frank O'Hara Now: New Essays on the New York Poet
Paperback: 256 Pages (2010-09-15)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$21.56
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Asin: 1846312337
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The work of Frank O’Hara (1926–66) is central to any consideration of twentieth-century American poetry. Frank O’Hara Now, the first collection of essays to be dedicated to O’Hara in nearly two decades, asks why O’Hara remains so important to twenty-first-century readers and writers of poetry. For many, O’Hara’s distinctive appeal depends on his witty depictions of urban experience, his relationship to the painters of abstract expressionism, and the exhilarating immediacy of his poetic voice. Yet these approachable qualities coexist with a demanding engagement with currents in European and American modernism. 

The book includes coverage of O’Hara moods that have rarely been discussed in the criticism to date, including boredom, hatred, and nihilism. Throughout, there is a powerful sense that fresh readings of O’Hara are crucial to understanding his continuing influence, making it essential reading for scholars and students of American poetry.


... Read more

10. Art Chronicles: 1954-1966
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 165 Pages (1991-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$9.93
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Asin: 0807607568
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11. In Memory Of My Feelings
by Frank O'Hara, Kynaston McShine, Robert Motherwell, Joe Brainard, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2005-10-15)
list price: US$65.00 -- used & new: US$8.00
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Asin: 0870705105
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Frank O'Hara began working at the front desk of The Museum of Modern Art in order to see the exhibitions as often as possible. During his lunch breaks he wrote poetry, sometimes pausing mid-meal to pen his seemingly effortless, spontaneous verses, which were stitched together from the events and sentiments of his daily life. These writings made him into one of the most important American poets of his generation. Eventually, he became an Associate Curator--even though he had no formal art training. Frank O'Hara: In Memory of My Feelings explores a key period in modern art, and highlights 30 artists who collaborated with O'Hara to produce "poem-paintings"--a single work of art paired with a single poem. The artists included Nell Blaine, Norman Bluhm, Joe Brainard, John Button, Giorgio Cavallon, Allan D'Arcangelo, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Niki de Saint Phalle, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Michael Goldberg, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Al Held, Jasper Johns, Matsumi Kanemitsu, Alex Katz, Lee Krasner, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Robert Nakian, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers and Jane Wilson. After being published by MoMA in 1967 as a collection of slipcased sheets, the original art-literature pairings of In Memory of My Feelings were thought to be lost. Last year, the works were rediscovered in the museum's archives, and this bound version was planned to re-present a seminal document of the beauty of collaboration in the arts.Frank O'Hara's poems are pairedwith a work by each of the following artists:Nell Blaine, Norman Bluhm, Joe Brainard, John Button, Giorgio Cavallon, Allan D'Arcangelo, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Niki de Saint Phalle, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Michael Goldberg, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Al Held, Jasper Johns, Matsumi Kanemitsu, Alex Katz, Lee Krasner, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Robert Nakian, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers and Jane Wilson.By Frank O'Hara.Edited by Bill Berkson.Essay by Kynaston McShine.Clothbound, 9 x 12 in./224 pgs / 49 color. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Again this evening, listen to Frank, browse his art collection, you're welcome
Beyond being a tribute to Frank O'Hara's ambidextrous grip on both poetry and painting, this admirable book attains another virtue: Each of his 30 poems becomes as individualized as the days of the month--as hath September April June and November--and you feel you are listening to Frank in his glory each day, each evening in his unkempt apartment, and your eyes can wander over all the hasty pictures hanging on the wall from his artist friends. And the white sheet between these poems offers you a rest, a shared bed for the night, if you're plastered. And you and Frank are not yet forty, so there's time time time, spake the Calendar.

This bound volume, printed in 2005, duplicates the content of the 1967 edition, which however comprised single-fold sheets in a slip case; each 4-page unit included a virtual blank bearing only volume page number, artist name/poem title; a spread with decorative art and poem title and text; and a concluding blank. So the bound volume preserves a lot of white space.

The Museum of Modern Art decided to use only American artists. The sepia and/or black illustrations range through abstract, pictorial, and comic strip. Each artist's intention is to react to the poem and do a suggestive at-ease piece that friend Frank would like.

The 3-page Afterword (1967) is by Bill Berkson, Frank's pal, so it is a warm embrace indeed.

The Poems are:

Ann Arbor Variations
Jane Awake
The eager note...
Poem to James Schuyler
Chez Jane
(excerpt from) Second Avenue
Romanze, or The Music Students
Ode (June 18, 1954)
Meditations in an Emergency
On the Way to the San Remo
Music (October 1954)
To the Film Industry in Crisis
Sleeping on the Wing
In Memory of My Feelings
A Step Away from Them
Ode to Willem de Kooning
Ode to Michael Goldberg('s Birth and Other Births)
Image of the Buddha Preaching
The Day Lady Died
Rhapsody (June 30, 1959)
Song (July 31, 1959)
Hate is only one of many responses...
Khrushchev is coming on the right day...
Variations on Pasternak's "Mein liebchen was willst du noch mehr?"
Poem to Donald Allen
Poem V (F) W
Light clarity avocado salad
For the Chinese New Year & for Bill Berkson

P.S."Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara: A Memoir" (2003) by Joe LeSueur provides rich detail on many of Frank's poems, including at least a half dozen in the MoMA volume. Plus, the naked truth about Frank's life and Joe's life. A joy to read! ... Read more

12. William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara, and the New York Art Scene
by Paul R. Cappucci
Hardcover: 167 Pages (2010-03-15)
list price: US$48.50 -- used & new: US$37.94
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Asin: 0838642187
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13. Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie (Contemp North American Poetry)
by Lytle Shaw
Hardcover: 352 Pages (2006-06-01)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$38.99
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Asin: 0877459843
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In this stimulating and innovative synthesis of New York's artistic and literary worlds, Lytle Shaw uses the social and philosophical problems involved in “reading” a coterie to propose a new language for understanding the poet, art critic, and Museum of Modern Art curator Frank O'Hara (1926-1966). O'Hara's poems are famously filled with proper names---from those of his immediate friends and colleagues in the New York writing and art worlds (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Grace Hartigan, Willem de Kooning, and many musicians, dancers, and filmmakers) to a broad range of popular cultural and literary heroes (Apollinaire to Jackie O). But rather than understand O'Hara's most commonly referenced names as a fixed and insular audience, Shaw argues that he uses the ambiguities of reference associated with the names to invent a fluid and shifting kinship structure---one that opened up radical possibilities for a gay writer operating outside the structure of the family. As Shaw demonstrates, this commitment to an experimental model of association also guides O'Hara's art writing. Like his poetry, O'Hara's art writing too has been condemned as insular, coterie writing. In fact, though, he was alone among 1950s critics in his willingness to consider abstract expressionism not only within the dominant languages of existentialism and formalism but also within the cold war political and popular cultural frameworks that anticipate many of the concerns of contemporary art historians. Situating O'Hara within a range of debates about art's possible relations to its audience, Shaw demonstrates that his interest in coterie is less a symptomatic offshoot of his biography than a radical literary and artistic invention. ... Read more

14. Homage To Frank O'Hara
 Paperback: 223 Pages (1988-01-01)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$12.00
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Asin: 0929844122
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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revised edition of classic all-star tribute ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars For the Frank Freak--Deliciously Personal
For those looking for the poems, go to the Collected, Lunch Poems, and Meditations in an Emergency. But for the O'Hara afficionados among us who want to know things beyond the work, this is better than Brad Gooch's biography City Poet. The virtual album of photos is stunning, it weighs less, and it probably has all that one wants from a biography anyway--that is to say, uncensored recollections of the man from his friends, pals, and lovers.

Highlights include Peter Schjeldahl's obit/feature from the Village Voice in 1966 and Patsy Southgate's somewhat salacious recounting of a particular evening with O'Hara.

The details of Frank's condition just before his death are somewhat wrenching, but the memories of his emotional state are happy ones...Enjoy. ... Read more

15. Early Writing
by Frank O'Hara
 Paperback: Pages (1977-06)
list price: US$4.00 -- used & new: US$15.00
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Asin: 0912516178
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16. Selected Poems
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 180 Pages (2005-01-27)
list price: US$15.75 -- used & new: US$12.18
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Asin: 1857547713
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Frank O'Hara (1926-66) is among the most delightful and radical poets of the twentieth century. He is celebrated for his apparently unpremeditated poems, autobiographical and immediate ('any time, any place'). This is not the whole O'Hara: he may have scribbled poems on serviettes, but others he worked on with intense concentration, creating sequences that are inexhaustibly nuanced, full of surprise, heartbreak and laughter. There are analogies between his work and that of the painters he championed, Pollock, Kline and de Kooning among them. He is resolutely metropolitan, and his metropolis is New York City. He brilliantly captured the pace and rhythms, quandaries and exhilarations, of its mid-twentieth-century life. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great collection.
Dear Diary: I have fallen in love with a poet named Frank O'Hara.I started with "Lunch Poems," but needed more.This volume is divine.O'Hara sneaks up on you.His style is so simple, so conversational, that you often times are surprised by the sudden depth of feeling comminicated in a final phrase.I don't know enough about poetry to prattle on and on without betraying my ignornace in short order.However, I know what I like, I know what speaks to me.I know that Frank O'Hara was a great poet.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Lunch Date
It's not exactly pocket-sized, but this volume can be conveniently and inconspicuously carried to lunch uptown, midtown, downtown, or out of town.There is a great collection of poems here (no plays), from the short andsweet to the longer and sweeter.All set in beautiful type on nice, formalheavier paper and with the inclusion of "Personism: A Manifesto"for an introduction and the cover art by O'Hara's personal friend.Thecover is more than just interesting, however, it really informs some of thequestions about confessional poetry raised by O'Hara's work.Just look atit for awhile... By the way, if you haven't yet read Frank O'Hara's poetry,this volume is an excellent and accessible place to start.Grab a fork, acup of coffee, and dig in! ... Read more

17. Hyperscapes in the Poetry of Frank O'Hara: Difference, Homosexuality,Topography
by Hazel Smith
Hardcover: 256 Pages (2000-12-01)
list price: US$70.00 -- used & new: US$62.97
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Asin: 0853239940
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Frank O’Hara’s poetry evokes a specific era and location: New York in the fifties and early sixties. This is a pre-computer age of typewritten manuscripts, small shops and lunch hours: it is also an age of gay repression, accelerating consumerism and race riots. Hazel Smith suggests that the location and dislocation of the cityscape creates "hyperscapes" in the poetry of Frank O’Hara. The hyperscape is a postmodern site characterized by difference, breaking down unified concepts of text, city, subject and art, and remolding them into new textual, subjective and political spaces. This book theorizes the process of disruption and re-figuration which constitutes the hyperscape, and celebrates its radicality.
... Read more

18. Selected Poems
by Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 288 Pages (2009-09-08)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$11.08
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Asin: 0375711481
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The first new selection of O’Hara’s work to come along in several decades. In this “marvellous compilation” (The New Yorker), editor Mark Ford reacquaints us with one of the most joyous and innovative poets of the postwar period. ... Read more

19. Amorous Nightmares of Delay (PAJ Books)
by Professor Frank O'Hara
Paperback: 230 Pages (1997-02-26)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$210.48
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Asin: 0801855292
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This volume brings together twenty-four of O'Hara's plays, from one-act dramas to brief "eclogues."While several were produced in New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, most are intended as poetic works cast in dramatic form. With his interest in camp, collage, and dramatic and verse forms, O'Hara created characters that range from classical figures (Daphnis and Chloe) to historical personalities (Benjamin Franklin and a thinly disguised General MacArthur) to his own contemporaries (Jackson Pollack, Ted Berrigan, and others). Like collections of his poetry, Amorous Nightmares of Delay captures the irreverent voice and joyful lyricism of one of America's great authors. An introduction by O'Hara's longtime friend Joe LeSueur places the works in the context of New York's extraordinary art and literary scene of the 1950s and early 1960s.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars experimental theater with a sense of humor
Much like his poems, Frank O'Hara's plays are hit-or-miss. Most of them were clearly written in a matter of minutes, and never intended for production. Many are simply inside jokes about his group of friends. Butthe good plays have no equal in the experimental theater of the 50's and60's. "The General Returns From One Place to Another," one of thefew in this collection that was actually produced, is a hilarious pieceabout a MacArthur-like figure who enacts dramatic returns to Pacificislands where no one has ever heard of him. Most of the other plays aremore like surrealist poems in dialogue form. For aficionados of O'Hara,this is a necessary companion to his _Collected Poems_. ... Read more

20. The First Time I Met Frank O'Hara: Reading Gay American Writers
by Rick Whitaker
Hardcover: 208 Pages (2003-10-01)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$4.75
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Asin: 1568582722
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Those who first met Rick Whitaker through his unrepentant memoir know that he was not a typical prostitute. This "Wittgenstein- and Freud-quoting" hustler is at core a thinker—and a voracious reader, one who has written book reviews for The New York Times and The Washington Post. In The First Time I Met Frank O’Hara, Whitaker discusses the books that have altered his perception and influenced the way he conducts his life. Although not all of Whitaker's favorite books are written by homosexuals, many — all included here — are. Linked essays on gay writers include Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, Frank O'Hara, and David Wojnarowicz . These sexual outsiders share what Whitaker calls a "gay sensibility": they describe without describing, show while hiding, and sing while keeping silent. Black-and-white photographs are also featured. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and easily accessible
In 1990 some friends and I formed a book group to read books by and or about gay people.The guys often kid me about being the facilitator, steering committee and publicity chairman (I piece together a monthly newsletter).Our goal has been to discover our gay roots - our hidden history.Throughout the past four years primarily (though obviously I've been reading all along), I have read a great deal of fiction, poetry, biography and history written by and/or about gay people.Perhaps because of my own trek through gay literature, I found Rick Whitaker's book enthralling.His observations are keen.His choice of writers and individual works are fresh and his writing is accessible.You don't have to be familiar with each of the writers discussed to appreciate Whitaker's take on their work.The fact that I have read, or at least heard of most of, the material discussed here only increased my appreciation for this truly remarkable little book.God bless you Rick for drawing our attention to James Purdy and Jane Bowles and Frank O'Hara and Glenway Wescott.Perhaps your book will inspire your readers to seek out books by these authors.Well done.

3-0 out of 5 stars Small Book With Large Sensibility
Well, not just an interesting glimpse at over a dozen gay American writers by a young writer himself. (Thoreau, Melville, Whitman, Wilde, Firbank, Baldwin, and minors such as Halleck, Fuller, Van Vechten, Ford, Purdy...) But also a valuable concept of "gay sensibility" in writing. Whitaker describes this as "original and fresh," but also "clever, scornful of laws, introspective, energetic, and sexy." Often it imports irony and wit. Usually also some melancholy. This concept usefully expands the concept of "camp," and it refreshes the shopworn query, "But is there such a thing as gay literature," etc.

But will "gay sensibility" last? Behind it, lay a larger "gay culture," but Whitaker claims that this culture no longer exists or is even needed, because Gay Liberation has mainstreamed GLB folk out of overt oppression. [I would qualify this: probably so in the fast-track urban venues, but what about "the old lady in Dubuque," or "some gay kid in Nebraska," let alone Third World Wide?...] And so, will this "gay sensibility" in writing also fade, alas? But wait; Whitaker usefully shows that on the other hand, (1) this specific fresh critical ironic/deep stance is also a part of generally-good creative imaginative artistry as such at all times. (No matter whether its makers are so-gay, or arrow-str8, or in bi-tween, let alone "profoundly Other.") Which is good; art is complex. Also he notes that (2) even if oppression segues into Liberation Now and in the future, well heck, gays will still be a minority within a majority, which will retain the sense of complexity, of diversity indeed. [I would add that (3) male-male rapport will still also always be subtly different from male-female (yes also female-male) rapport, in bio-psycho-social terms.] So "gay culture" is always around in art, and always will be in society. Whew, a relief for some of us who like-fern bars and soufflés? No, complexity...

Less unique but valuable is the book noting again the idea that earlier gay writers had to encode, be dualistic and dissimulating and duplicitous to get their message across under the radar of prohibitions. And that gay readers drew great sustenance from this covert communication in an earlier wasteland. These are useful perspectives to recall, for gay history, and also for all diversity-minority-multicultural concerns as well.

True, Whitaker may do some special pleading as to the importance of this or that minor writer or work. A singsong jingle is perhaps not great art. But a little kind stroking for minority validification is okay; we don't need Only One Canon anyhow.

I found another way to enjoy the book, as not just a journal of this young writer's responses, but a diary of his own identity or persona.An admitted ex-hustler now apparently into writing and literary study, and just past the age of thirty, Whitaker comes across (in my biased insight or insightful bias anyhow) as one on the move, on a journey thus. Encountering the big themes of life which he sees in his dozen authors. (Even though still trudging less than halfway on the long road toward true interpersonal intimacy, mature attachment-a fact which to his credit he discloses.) So hail to this writer 30 years my own junior, on "our" open road, amid leaves of grass. Read this book to converse covertly, not only with writers of the past but also another reader in the present...

5-0 out of 5 stars An interesting survey to some queer and near-queer writers
Early on in this collection of enjoyable and highly engaging essays, Whitaker admits that he is laying before us the gay and lesbian authors he has been drawn to. This is a personal essay, not a Gay Lit 101 textbook. Consequently, some major gay American writers are not included: David Leavitt, Christopher Bram, Edmund White, Christopher Isherwood, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote. Lesbian representation is slight--just Emily Dickinson (near queer, at that), Jane Bowles, and Gertrude Stein. And one slot was taken up by a writer who isn't even American (Oscar Wilde).

What's nice about Whitaker's writing, though, is that it is disciplined and thoughtful. He allows us glimpses of himself (it is safe to assume that part of his disdain for Gore Vidal, the man, derives from Whitaker's own experiences as a prostitute serving aloof, self-important clients as described in his memoir ASSUMING THE POSITION). But this authorial intrusiveness is occassional, is refreshingly honest and forthright, and never veers into self-indulgence.

While I might quibble with some of his assessments (Is Andrew Holleran's DANCER FROM THE DANCE really the generational equivalent of Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY?), quibbling is half the fun of reading literary criticism. I share his high regard for O'Hara, was glad to learn a little about Gertrude Stein as a writer (most critics usually write about her as a mentor to other writers), and am intrigued enough by his discussions of Glenway Wescott, Bowles, David Wojnarowicz, and Henri Cole to seek out copies of their works.

No explanation is given of the captionless photographs by Iannis Delatolas that illustrate this volume. In some cases their subject is obvious (one is of Frank O'Hara's grave, others are of living writers, such as John Ashberry), in other cases their subjects evoke the characters and settings these gay authors wrote about. Whatever their purpose, they're a nice addition.

Whitaker has produced another interesting book on gay culture and lifestlye. I look forward to seeing what he'll do next.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very good intro to great writers
I started this book with increasing reservations, wondering what this neophyte writer could say about the canon standards like Whitman and Thoreau and eventually decided: not much. But as the book progressed and Whitaker was on more contemporary turf, his comments became more insightful, more personal and more discerning. His thoughts on Jane Bowles, Glenway Wescott, Gore Vidal are very smart and reveals ideas buried within their work in a very convincing way. The writing is always lucid and even when not particularly brilliant, entertaining. Ultimately a very good place to start when approaching gay writing (or even, for that matter, a good place to end up).

5-0 out of 5 stars A Walk in the Park
Rick Whitaker's delightful new book is a criticism, a literary history, and a memoir, that takes readers on a leisurely journey along the highways and - mostly - byways of gay American writing, from the 19th Century to the present. Whitaker's great charm is evident throughout: the book is a perambulation, a genuine 'smelling of the flowers', that forsakes grand critical pronouncements, preferring instead a highly engaging, personal response to the work of his chosen subjects. The effect is at times exquisite; miniature portraits of Thoreau, Whitman, Tobias Schneebaum, Emily Dickinson, to name a few, achieve a clarity, a precision, and even a sweetness, quite without fanfare, that is all too rare in the recent fad for the literary travelogue. The book opens up new avenues of exploration for the discerning reader, pinpointing carefully the slow assimilation of gay themes into the mainstream, without ever being exclusive. Photographs by Iannis Delatolas, discretely placed throughout the text, add beautifully to Whitaker's credo: he seems to suggest that anybody's response to literature, when carefully considered, is at heart a personal search for truth and reconciliation. ... Read more

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