Rewarding though it is, poetry is not always welcoming. Emily Dickinson is rather staid. Robert Frost is so somber. Muriel Rukeyser is frequently esoteric. Even Shakespeare’s sonnets can be at times as overwhelmingly florid as the lace cushions on your grandmother’s couch.
Frank O’Hara has seen a resurgence of interest lately. His Meditations in an Emergency popped up in Mad Men and friends keep bringing him up. O’Hara achieves the neat trick of placing within a taut form a spontaneous eye for his world.
Form was to him a necessary foundation, "As for measure and other technical apparatus, that's just common sense: if you're going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There's nothing metaphysical about it."
The content of the poems is a grab-bag of New York life in the fifties and sixties. Parties, restaurants, celebrities, artists, run-down apartment buildings and noisy streets all filter through a kaleidoscopic embrace. O’Hara is particularly adept at capturing the scope of this environment in his Lunch Poems.
“The Day Lady Died” is characteristic of what O’Hara does best, an extremely personal reaction to a public event, but with an ironically self-aware eye holding him back from over-seriousness, couched in the midst of a deceptively scattered whirlwind of products, places, and friends referred to with inviting familiarity, drawing out the individual located within the objects of modern commerce.
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