Frank O’Hara, Collected Poems
(Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 1995)
Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection September 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001)
Frank O’Hara “Chez Jane”, 102
· see both Perloff and Smith on this poem
Frank O’Hara “Blocks”, 108
· here the blocks seems the building blocks of our lives and thus the blocks also of the stanzas. The narrative is one of sexual development from the dense imagery of adult sexuality as he expresses it during this period, through the simplicity of childish love into the unsettling greedy love of the final stanza
· stanza 1: the he/she duality is offset by and increasing intensity and complexity of predicated phrases so that the subject becomes less and less and identity and more and more the merest excuse for the virtuoso performances of imagery. The sexuality is all violence and passion yet finally the balance she/he is disrupted as she takes over and is simultaneously excluded from the “divine pastures”, perhaps she was too eager herself.
· stanza 2: here the gender is dropped by the colloquial phrase “O boy” is also an indicator perhaps of an alternative sexual grouping. The simplicity of this version of love is obviously in direct contrast to the previous stanza.
· stanza 3: the enjambment which then allow the second stanza to run into this third suggests a continuation and their peculiar lover “like someone always losing something and never knowing what” comes out as a basic definition of desire, and an expression perhaps of the confusion of emerging homosexuality, framed by “it became suddenly” and “always so” which is a paradoxical temporal framing.
· the conclusion associates sugar, sex, appetite and trees as perhaps alternative archetypes to those typical for innocent and romantic love. Like Ashbery homosexuality is associated with the interior worlds of childhood.
Frank O’Hara “Hatred”, 117-120
· note Koch’s note that this had been typed on part of a roll.
· the poem puts forward a psycho-sexual politicised self who is at war throughout the piece. What is of interest here is how he seems to be trying to find a way out of the confessional mode and yet still retain an autobiographical slant relating to his disgust at the world during this period. The title hatred makes it and anti-love poem and here the war then stands in for the normal violence he associates with sexuality at this point anyway. The war is both related geographically to America and also has religious undertones though it is also the war against indigenous peoples later in the piece.
· the poet/persona is part Orphic at least topographically in that he is over and above the carnage and though he takes part in it throughout he is also able to be in a met-position.
· stanza 1; the association here we self and age is such that instead of living in a terrible avant-garde he actually possesses it. These first three stanzas all open in a variation on this: “I have”, “I’ve”, “I’d”. This initial self is both articulated and a fallen angel, “I part / my name at the seams of the beast”.
· stanza 2: here the meta-position is clear as the poet bounds over the whole earth in giant steps, this is all very much related to Mayakovsky and the association of the subjective with cosmic importance e.g. “Cloud in Trousers”.
· stanza 4: there is some resonance with the slave sections of “Song of Myself” here and it is Whitmanic in the association of self with nation but here the relationship is problematic. Self a beast becomes here the sphinx.
· stanza 6-8: here the poet becomes the prey, note the motif of hunting which returns of course later, note also the division of self here is such that self can hound self. Birth death and nationhood are all associated the final line is very much the philosophy of AbEx, “for I / have done it...”
· stanza 13: first mention of the war it leads onto a central stanza
· stanza 14: here the Orphic poet cries out his total identity as pain and registers the section in “Song of Myself” where the poet fears for his identity as he tries to fuse with all.
· the closing sections associate this war of self with self with issues such as poverty, racism, imperialism , sexuality. Finally, the poet’s nationhood is rejected as indeed Ashbery rejected it literally at this period all seemingly related to the phrase: “I have been hunted in the purple arms of a lover”. What is not clear then is exactly what identity the poet retains: he is split, he equals all of America and he also rejects America. This is an early attempt then at coming to terms with the Orphic American self by following the models of Whitman and Mayakovsky and expanding the self out and also up into a meta-narrative position. Later this will be reformulated into a much more manageable articulating gap, i.e. “A Step Away from Them” and the basic gap that makes Personism necessary.
Frank O’Hara “Second Avenue”, 139-150
· the “Notes on Second Avenue” 495-497 is instructive on several points:
1. that subject matter is “besides the poem’s point in most cases” (495) and the poem is not paraphrasable
2. that the poem consists of several scenes, actual meetings, actual conversations, descriptions of things which actually happened and of art works
3. “actually everything in it either happened to me or I felt happening (saw, imagined) on Second Avenue.” (497)
4. the influence of de Kooning and Mayakovsky is that they have both done works Was big as cities” (497)
5. intention is “to keep the surface of the poem high and dry, not wet reflective and self conscious” (497), thus obscurity comes in the relation between surface and meaning though he seems then as coincidental with each other
6. “I hope the poem to be the subject, not just about it” (497).
· thus, before even beginning the poem we have numerous problems to deal with, that the poem’s mimetic intention is related directly to “Second Avenue” and is as such a sign of this avenue but taking into consideration the basic complexity of the relation of the sign to the real via the problems of signifier and signified, the chances of being able to read a sign as complex as this are remote yet it is able to be a sign for a sign is not a word and in this sense it is very close to Ashbery’s desire to expand the word to be as big as the poem thus to isolate a unit, as in Webern’s isolated notes, than magnify it out so that it occupies such a space as this poem does.
· however, further problems then come in at this point as to how this is a sign of the real “Second Avenue”. First, the very complexity of the signifier is of course an issue but further to this is the processive relationship between the signifier and its signified for essentially they are the same that is the conception of the real Second Avenue is not paraphrasable but is simply this process of the poem, this the poem is a sign of itself as a process of conceiving of particular locale. Just as Mayakovsky made a poem as big as a city, here we have a poem as big as an avenue with “Second Avenue” standing in of course as a particular synecdoche for New York as a whole. This confluence of signifier and signified is in accord with the relation between surface and meaning that is the surface is the meaning.
· the status of the poem is such that it cannot be read in any traditional sense of the word nor can it be criticised, it cannot be paraphrased and its subject is simple enough, thus it isn’t a poem product at all but a process of poetic being.
· section 1: the beginning must be privileged anyway but here the three line coda, which Ashbery uses in “A Wave” further emphasises this as a possibility. The “quips and players” pre-empt the games of language he will later play, whilst the “diced excesses” is a neat description of much of this poem which contains “everything”, the mixing of pleasures is the overall mixed discourse of the poem whilst the final line is enigmatic yet does suggest the spatiality of the poem which is not depth based but proximity and marginal.
· there are recurrent motifs throughout:
-the exotic (Rimbaud)
· however unlike “Oranges” and “Easter”, this is not a limited system and these motifs recur often only occasionally and there are many sections which do not contain them but utilise their own motifs due to the aleatory nature of the poem’s composition, thus cohesion such as it is comes from two sources beyond the taken for granted one of the de-limited poetic body, namely “Second Avenue” and the poet’s consciousness.
· the poem has numerous lines which stand out lucidly against the dense virtuoso performance of imagery that articulates them thus “This thoroughness whose traditions have become so reflective” or “You will say I am supernatural”, this has a rhythmic effect based on semantic rather than formal motifs, moments when a line yields up a phrase which is immediately comprehensible or at least requires no work from the reader.
· the dense imagery works in much the same manner as in “Oranges” and “Easter”, a mix of limited and all-over coherence based on the tripartite system of association Smith has noted.
· what is always going to be on interest is the role of the I here, p.140 for example produces an I/you interaction where the I is: reassuring (bitterly), a nun, double-faced, adoring, scintillating, supernatural in “you’s” opinion, suffering accelerations, third person “my I”. You is: complaining, islands, receiver of all, doubting, lips, has opinions about I which however I tells you it has, racing towards nervousness, face fallen etc. In the middle of this we have the third person “him” who is also undergoing extreme transformation, you could also be him. The interaction between I and you here is still completely situated in the realm of the I with the I making the you in vers, destroying the subjective unity of the “you” event telling the “you” what it feels/thinks.
· section 2: much shorter this contains a taxonomy of adjectives, “and abysmal, elevation cantankerous filaments / of...” the final passage contains a return to the rural/sexual and again is a manifestation of the waiting snake. The dice here are returned to and the dice/stars/fan/shipwreck consists then of a Mallarméan discourse that is being conducted in the poem along with similar game with Rimbaud. What is interesting is how the translation of dé into dice produces the further signification of cutting up or desiccation which the poem demonstrates. However, as opposed to taking language to bits as in Ashbery, here the language is pushed in the opposite direction of over-determination.
· the triptych the section ends on also relates to the breath that ends “Easter” and sets up the basic elements of one possible reading of the poem as: desire, disorder, and dying with disorder, “dérèglement”, mediating between these twin poles but desire and death are not antinomies at all, desire is the process of learning to die, but the interposing of disorder produces a gap between which allows desire and death to take up a processive relationship. The I/you process of desire is then separated out from its elegiac aspects so the two can be seen with more clarity. This is a basic role of the avant-garde.
· section 3: usefully this section beings with the science of elegy and relates to the “chromatism of occidental death”, which must surely be black, the “true foreigness” is death but is also the oriental here. The trope for life here, “falling into a sea of asphalt abuse which is precisely life” is moving more towards the city orientation of later work which transforms the city from the organic “forest” of Surrealism to a non-pastoral and non-threatening sense of the city as the new locality for poetry, away from the pastoral into the urban. The flag of nobody coupled with again strangeness and the modern world suggests here still a coming to terms with city living, with this new pastoral worlds which is going to be our new tradition indefinitely. This is a nice phrase for the atmosphere of the time, “the longing to be modern and sheltered and different / and insane and decorative as a Mayan idol too well understood / to be beautiful...”, where the initial modernity becomes a relic, very neo-avant-garde, and the idea of understanding of the other is equal to its loss of beauty.
· later (142) the heart is appealing to a sense of casualness, the casual versus the causal being the basis of the New York School’s different attitude to the city than say the Surreal attitude, in the Surreal city the casual becomes causal due to hazard objectif and paranoid criticism, here the casual is cause of everything. The conclusion of sovereignty associated with doing/being, the flag of nobody if flapping here, reference Ashbery f(l)ag, and the whole night is held in only one eye here noting then a relinquishing in part of the aspect of gazing, here the eye is associated with “you” very clever.
· section 4: a brief love lyric with relates directly to the formations of desire above this ends elliptically as if the lyric of love can now never end and also must now be a mediation between to bodies (section 3 and 5).
· section 5: the possibility of “you” as altitude (vertige) or poet’s self is valid. The poet’s “I” here has become marvellously complex as is the self, the self-regarding self, the eye, the you, and the drunkard sponging. The you is similarly articulated, “You fled when you followed”, this then if fully delineated with the discourse of desire here coinciding with the taxonomic effect of the poem as a whole, this is immediately followed by the first I do this section, “I met Joe...”, then the major narrative section of the plane and the male/female lovers. Thus discourse is mixed between the discursive, the aleatory and the narrative. This is then followed by a literal list, the numbers in fact delineate nothing but are just added into the normal run of text but the further help to emphasis the taxonomic basis of the parataxis of the poem. Sentence division is emphasised and like the surrealists the basic subject/predicate grammatical structure is rarely if ever violated in these poems suggesting essentially that the point of coherence loss is in-between sentences and phrases perhaps or that as long as a diversity of material is held within a sentence structure we are able to read it and to read numbers of such sentences but when read together as a concatenated succession, which is what this poem is, the coherence is lost.
· New York is increasingly playing a part as the poem progresses as do aleatory details generally, this poem is less I do this, than this occurred to me then that occurred to me. The poet is still a fairly static centre (see the biographical details of its composition).
· section 6: whole section given over to Bunny Lag
· section 7: at certain points, and this opening passage is one of them, syntax is extended to the point where the numerical delineation can be removed from its exoteric position and be placed in esoteric relation thus here the basic indicators of grammatical syntax, subjects, verbs, conjunctions, modifiers etc. are retained and in a sense are to be bracketed off, whilst the predicated material is as wildly diverse as the poet requires. This has the effect of reconfiguring the subject/predicate relationship in syntax which also analogously reconfigures the subject/predicate relationship of subjectivity in general with the predicate being both the other and the object. The predicate is no longer essentially predicated on the subject but they rather have a synthetic deconstructive relation.
· p.146: perhaps this I do this of the consciousness is passage to cite in full later. The passage contains aleatory, narrative, taxonomic, exclamation, autobiography, citation. What may be of issue here in relation to Ashbery consciousness in motion poems is
1. the type of consciousness in question suggesting there is a basic difference between the conscious manner of Ashbery and O'Hara, taking for granted that the subconscious realm must always be similar
2. the type of motion. Ashbery seems to prefer to be actually moving to as to produce and interaction between a changing landscape and his changing thoughts, O'Hara seems rather to be static, and avenue after all does not move but traffic moves along it, thus if the poet is the avenue then the consciousness is static and the world moves through or lives in it.
· section 8: nice opening quote here the past and the sensation of the past are obviously different, but both are contained within the now the now being the avenue/poet, the section then has a number of different temporal zones: Sunday, yet-to-be-more, night, prehistory, dead generations, the glacier, the Id (no time), historical past (Gladstone), anniversaries (Valentines), 2-hours, the fast watch.
· section 9: opening approaches collage by using different titles and their authors these text lists then are followed by his body features listed using the musicality of feet (features).
· p.148, a good section again to quote in full as an example of discourse mixing, beginning with a Lunch Poem, the aleatory/quotidian narrative is interpolated by music, interjection, autobiography but the intense imagery is dropped at least momentarily. What needs to be asked here is again two-fold:
1. what is the general status of such passages in mixing up discourse in this manner
2. how does the general implication relate to the specificity of the textual event i.e. what of these details here, what specific semantic force do they carry?
· section 10: the centre of this section contains a kind of contrastive taxonomy that we might call integrated versus actual or some such. Again useful section to quote.
· section 11: in many ways the break through section, the more synthetic density of imagery that was also strictly limited that we find in “Oranges” and “Easter” has in this poem been slowly usurped by the aleatory and the poetry of the event or actual happening and of discourse mixing. Thus as at the point between TCO and TP where Ashbery moves from collage of text to collage of speech, here O'Hara has moved from literary to quotidian source material, or rather we have perhaps a slow concession to what it really means to put self on page that is to put all of self including the other material, in a fully integrated structure. The self here is made up of the I and the you, subject and predicate, consisting of imagery, citation, signs, things actually seen, thought associations, lists.
· again it ends with air, breath, here the breath is that of actual speech as it is in citation marks, and like Ashbery the conclusion always seems to fall on the traditional symbolic, breath water or summit, but here the immobility of apotheosis is undercut with the narrative linearity of the entrails just as the obstruction is substanceless and made of air. Here however the passage of air, breath/expression, is stopped which is essentially as good a place as any to end.
· the poem then is a vital point between the O'Hara of early dense imagery and the later O'Hara and is thus his transitional style. The musicality of language is kept, but increasingly as fragments of an overall collage of now widely disparate material. Thus need to:
1. show this shift
2. delineated this material
3. consider how it is combined
4. relate this to the O'Hara subject
Frank O’Hara “3 Poems About Kenneth Koch”, 151-2
· possibly and early version of Personism these poems are direct addresses to Koch in the style of same to a degree thus they act as a kind of address/parody I guess.
· “Que Viva Mexico!”: direct address the “Tuba? gin?” relates directly to Koch’s love of aspect of Easter, the simple joy of using words never used in poems or juxtapositions never used. The interrogatives here seem merely to suggest why not which is really the simplicity of Koch’s avant-garde approach.
· “Gallop Along! or Hurry Back”: written in the present tense much more now orientated is benefits from similar passages in “Second Avenue” also, here the language shifts are restricted to typographical errors, “indigestion, I mean indiscretion”. The double motion of title seems to fit in with the pronominal shifts here which seem to run up to Koch” Are you getting a beer, Kenneth” then away form him, “are you watching him waste his time in the street?”. Section 2 is simply out of Koch, the motif of moving up and down forward and back is retained into section 3, where Koch goes out into the world, only to be called back at the end (periplum).
· “The Inca Mystery”: taxonomy in interaction with a mock narrative of Koch’s actions, the final line “And now the telephone. “Hello Kenneth?” confirming its relation to Personism.
Frank O’Hara “On Rachmaninoff’s Birthday”, 159
· one of his first occasional poems it is also one of three (I think, on Rachmaninoff), the poem begins brilliantly of course with speed the line breaks here start the poem as if he is in a hurry to be off, only then to drop down into “off my rocker” which along with off is of course “Rachmaninoff” as well as the “k” of quick. l.3 begins again with a kind of beginning, “Onset” which however turns out to be a place name note here all the sonic involutions. The following two images are simple surreal juxtapositions with instruments and a subjective response.
· the rest of the poem is both a response to the music, a series of lists and a number of subjective insights. Essentially two lists, the first modified by an intertextual context, “Oh my palace of oranges”, the second by childhood, the lists however seem similar regardless. Then the real interjects with the comic burning soup.
· the last line is typical of O'Hara’s method of suddenly becoming clear and cataphoric if you like with suddenly the theme of mental sobriety being raised, it would seem then that the drunk mind if that of madness and the poem becomes much more urgent at this point.
Frank O’Hara “The Hunter”, 167
· an allegorical poem along the lines of Ashbery’s “The Mythological Poet” and similar works by Koch, the only formal interest is the doubling in the poem: “hunting and hunting”, “he thought / and thought” etc. and the up down motion so that everything is falling down as he ascends.
· the Orphic aspect then is in accord with “The New Spirit”, however just as the poet turns away there, so here he reaches the point of golden ascendancy where he comes to rule, then his quarry find him and humiliate him. A kind of master/slave dialectic relating to Melmouth the Wanderer?
· this early version of poet as hunter then of course returns in “In Mem...” but is it also related to the cruising and rough trade period he was going through then? Anyway it is a typical motif of self a centre for there the proactive self is still found not finding, as in “In Mem...”.
Frank O’Hara “Grand Central”, 168
· again the egocentrism is apparent here again in an allegorical poem where not only is the poet the station in a kind of extended figure, (find the term for this), but what he is is not simply a thoroughfare as in “Second Avenue” but the centre of New York’s infrastructure”.
· two points of interest. The line “I don’t have an American / body, I have an anonymous body...” which is some kind of renunciation of Whitman I guess, and the second stanza which relates a blow-job O'Hara famously gave though here it is told as if a friend did it. Grand central the becomes an eroticised sexual centre and relates to the tube line he would have got to go to the cruising areas.
Frank O’Hara “Aus Einem April”, 186
· Of an April??
· stanza 1: opening with the pointlessness of this particular form of spring cleaning, it also stresses and interiority at the onset of spring. “Walls” is a sonic mot-thème returning as “falling”, “all”, “full”, “applause”, and “rolls”. Apart from this the walls do not return as symbolic or at least their symbolism is not sustained until the end of the stanza with the rooftops. In between these framing devices then is a double narrative of the larks weeping and the interchange of bodies.
· stanza 2: here a typical process of synecdoche is performed with the “hands” becoming “fingers”, the “tongue” is now “breathless” and “kisses” becomes “lips”. The pastoral conclusion is a weakness shared with Ashbery of ending on something big and ambiguous like mist on the ocean. The turbulent greenness of out there is both the ocean and outside of the interior which then refers to spring.
· still the aleatory is merely in associative thought processes but I must begin to make some point of resonance between the process of synecdoche and metonymy and the larger thematic concerns of self in his work.
Frank O’Hara “Death”, 186-7
· useful little poem for the working out of the relation of self to outside world.
· stanza 1: here the role of “poet” is a kind of imperative and already the self as agent is separated from these other social manifestations of self which seem to operate according to pre-established laws.
· stanza 2: here the interaction of the renewal of the past in the now is broached but in the opposite manner to “In Mem...” in that the present is always modified by the past here and the image of the foundry with its resonances of foundation suggest still a predominance of past over present, yet also each present is a new view of a “tentative” past and the heavy presence of foundry is undercut by is being “shimmering”, finally the historical past tense of Ashbery is rejected for the present tense of the self “it’s just me”
· stanza 3: plain acceptance of the articulated self again metaphors of origination (root, ribs).
· stanza 5: the self is not so totalising now that the exterior world is completely coincidental with it but rather the outside world now, like the past, is selected to serve the needs and dictates of the self’s desire.
· stanza 6: net a very good stanza at all, he is however taking an aleatory occurrence, falling over drunk which is also in “Aus Einem April”, into a philosophical/ avant-garde stance. Note the trope of falling backwards, contravening the indelible futurity of death which is equal to his stopping speaking, is also ironically seen as an avant-garde statement which shows here an early appreciation of the cultural paradoxes of the neo-avant-garde.
Frank O’Hara “On Rachmaninoff’s Birthday (I am so glad that Larry Rivers made a), 190
· I need to consider here the design features of his work returning to his differentiations on design etc.
· the poem produces an interaction of the experience of listening to music, considering a possible cultural event and reflections on self thus we have recollection, aleatory and subjective times all mixed up together in the fabric of the poem, note the title also suggests the duality of being-as-fame, the day of one’s birth and the name.
· stanza 1-3: this initial reflection is typical of O'Hara in that he is essential a cataphoric poet introducing theme only at the end of the poem. The debate on his relation to Picasso’s no-penis suggests a camp awareness of their relation to the historical avant-garde, the irony on the debate on presence being his sexuality and his relation to Rivers, and his infamous hard-on.
· stanza 4-7: here, the movement of the music is reflected by the indentations and enjambments of these short stanzas, the “Oh now it is...” introduces an immediacy of experience we find especially in Schuyler, and the conflation of the music with the day it typical of a basic synaesthesia he often utilises though usually with his own self as centre, here actually the day literally is the music as it’s his birthday. The irony of the way in which the music makes the table/typewriter ambiguous is multivalenced:
1. they are not at all ambiguous
2. they are ambiguous because the music surround them
3. yet the ambiguity is already a given
4. anyway it is not the music now which surrounds but the day
5. that the ambiguity comes from the role of the objects in O'Hara’s work
· the use of music here as an all-over synaesthesia is important for a comparison with Ashbery use of music as a teleological process without discernible telos, for O'Hara it is rather an all over climate that is not moving but is melding, this is in keeping also with the different senses of the consciousness in flux that I have already noted.
· the final stanza of this section melds the music with the persona.
· stanza 8-9: the idea of belatedness is beginning to introduce a real present tenseness, so that the final stanza is a self constructed of the other, the music, genre generally and a new house which relates to the basic quotidian character of the object on the table. The second resonance to this is that he is literally being made by others at this time via the dissemination of his penis.
· other versions of the synaesthesiac self can be found in such poems as “My Heat” (194-5) where he is a jet in various contexts possible of the word, and “Homage to Pasternak’s Cape Mootch” (195) where his self interpenetrates the day, water, cigarette etc.
Frank O’Hara “Ode (An idea of justice may be precious)”, 195-7
· the first official ode it has its own version of complex stanzaic form with rhyme and metre replaced by the complexities of design, and its own strophe/anti-strophe rhythm by the shifts in points of view etc., and by its being constructed of two concepts, justice and love.
· stanza 1: the opening lines are the basic theme of one half of the poem, justice and amusement. Fun in New York School is always a political/aesthetical stance it being contra the seriousness endemic in academic poetry of the period, but also typifying capitalism, “America is a fun country” etc. Here then the concept of justice is rightly determined as gregarious (democratic) and amusing (fun, provider of pleasure).
· the crisis of the cow on the payroll of course relates to Agrippa’s making his horse a minister and also has recent resonance with Ciacescu’s dog etc., the crisis here then is the crisis endemic to capital, that is that fun becomes decadence. The introduction of the subject here is relating I guess to the basic concept of American democracy which is individuals open to each other. The millions criticising here are the same millions from “They Dream Only”, the basketball player representing and American ideal I guess and the possibility of doubt in the heart land.
· stanza 2: the anti-strophe then, an idea of democracy here that does not result in equality. This sense of self as “muddy instants” is crucial shift in sense of subjective self.
· stanza 3: Beginning of the rhetorical style of “In mem...” with poet as animal in our midst which must be hunted down and killed.
· stanza 4: the cow-fox-oriole-horse presents a basic musical motif but now it is much more gestural than internal. The horse returns later of course on the frieze and is thus a symbol of empire, here treated metonymically, that is literally, it still however retains its symbolic significance. The horse is the weight of empire, outmoded now in the New York of new icons: James Dean, Lana Turner et.al.
· stanza 5: the stanzaic blocks become stratified here in accord with the breeze of freedom, here the subject of flux rejects the horse so that in stanza 6 it becomes an eroticised object.
· stanza 6: thus the switch occurs so we have the bisecting triangles as in “A Boy”, here love now takes over from justice, it is introduced of course in stanza 1 as “Venus”. The final image attempts to fuse lovers with the machinery of the state which both eroticises the late capital society which is just beginning at this point whilst adding a political dimension to his homosexual love making a bid for inclusion into the union of love if you like. Thus the initial amusement of justice it transformed to the serious amusement of sexual activity.
Frank O’Hara “Meditations in an Emergency”, 197-198
· critics have rightly noted the different sense of mediation here which is no longer in an exoteric relation but places the poetic consciousness within the confines of quotidian experience. The temporal paradox is also related to the Ashbery archival moment which is both now and also deepened by the enunciation in the now of the self-meditating subject.
· the poem is in fact a manifesto every bit as good as Personism and need not be read formally but rather as a series of essential statements of self producing a manifesto of subjectivity.
· 1: the self-as-doubt towards futurity
· 2: a tripartite system of self-destruction, remaking and repetition and yet basic threat of death which this brings along with it.
· 3: basic economy is one of desire not only towards others but also as is later shown all objects.
· 4: the organicism from Whitehead
· 5: rejection finally of the pastoral aspects which symbolise his childhood, in favour of city as new topos. His association with the rural and regret aesthetically is correct of one sees the pastoral as the place for mourning. The affirmation of the least sincere and the duty of attention as basics of his poetic vision.
· 6: the eye metonymy here is returned to as a symbol of flux, they change with the changes of the world they observe. “I am always looking away” is similar sense of attention to that of “A Step Away from Them”, and is the new alternative poetic topography of to the side, reference Koch also, rather than above or within. Finally the “I am needed by things” is a sister concept to “it needs pronouncing”, it is a process of enunciation extended to include the inanimate world which often is the world of the poetic enunciation anyway through the symbols of self used. It is also a reformulation of no ideas but in things, suggesting an economic system of exchange rather than a static truth. This is a central statement of post-modern aesthetics which is a reformation of the poetic persona from the Orphic process of martyrdom and separation, to the introduction of poetry into all discourse.
· 9: a new subjective avant-garde statement
· 10: the role of desire and the beloved, love comes not from love but from the entrapment into the process of love which is equal to the enunciation of self by producing the basic aporia of “I am (being-towards-death), which is the onset of subjectivity as elegiac self.
· 12: the restlessness of being in the now, the conflict of desire is followed by the immediacy of a new non-epic temporal zone. The final image of interrelation between self and the knob is quite complex due to the relation of subject to object (synaesthesia), the symbolism of the door, remember he may be a door, “Ode”, and the relation of spit to the mouth and the process therefore of speech.
Frank O’Hara “To the Mountains in New York”, 198-200
· of minor interest for its renunciation of the pastoral world for that of the urban environment. Here however the city is still the dense forest of addicts and surreal imagery suggesting he is still not reconciled to what the topography of the city is, that it is a different spatiality altogether to the pastoral world. It would seem that New York is not a symbol of America here, “America’s wandering away from me”, but is symbol of the eternal topos of the city, “I remember Moscow”.
· stanza 2: this city which is the nightmarish visions of expressionism, is still a pastoral city as it is the ancient city state with delimits and symbolic significance of an entirely different character. Note the self here is still the large all-engulfing Orphic self of earlier work similar to the egotism of Mayakovsky, and the you is still confusable with the I.
· stanza 3: the poem fails here as he falls back into the organicised massive self of early work.