Chapter

The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

Dan Chiasson

in One Kind of Everything

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780226103815
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226103846 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226103846.003.0005
The Tenses of Frank O̓Hara

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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

Chapter.  8973 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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