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William Logan on Frank O’Hara: Insouciant!

June 30, 2008

every vowel mover loves a good summer read and no one’s a better read than Frank O’Hara. we believe the man lived in linen suits. even in winter, if Frank O’Hara was there, it was summer. so maybe that’s why he keeps popping up on our lazy hazy po-rads*.


first up is William Logan’s review of the new Frank O’Hara Selected Poems from Knopf (edited by Mark Ford). we don’t always know what to make of the NYTimes poetry reviews. most of them, even when complimentary, are ambiguous. logan calls o’hara “jazzy, elated as an eel” as well as “a vain young man”. he uses “insouciant” twice and compares o’hara to champagne. then he says, “but O’Hara almost never faces up to the emptiness beneath this high life and low desire”. logan says the collection is at once “foolish and self-parodic” and yet “fresh”.

wow. wow. we’re all for the grey areas and fine tuned distinctions, but chrissakes Logan, did you like the friggen book or what? get it? yes? no? maybe so? maybe not read book reviews and expect to get anything out of them…

better than Logan’s ambiguity is DA Powell’s sense of humor on the pofo’s** Harriet blog. from the title (Banal Probe), to calling out the hataz, to invoking the old adage (“everybody’s got one!”), Powell’s post delights. but the true gem is the O’Hara anecdote he recalls for all the non ivy league-community college poets out there:

Once, Frank O’Hara was giving a reading, and a familiar voice shouted from the back of the room, “You’re ruining American poetry, O’Hara.” Not missing a beat, O’Hara replied, “That’s more than you ever did for it, Kerouac.”

shit talking poets: 1

concerned sensitive poets: 0

*poetry radars. duh.

**poetry foundation. ok. we didn’t expect you’d get that.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 8:58 pm

    i like Frank O’Hara and i love his work, just about all of it, but i absolutely LOVE that anecdote! ouch! (off to to find out what “insouciant” means…)

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