For Class 10/31

In “Why I am Not a Painter”, Frank O’Hara writes, “One day I am thinking of / a color: orange. I write a line / about orange. Pretty soon it is a / whole page of words, not lines […] Days go by […] My poem / is finished and I haven’t mentioned / orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call / it ORANGES.” O’Hara compares his poetry process to that of a painter and with a thick irony that leads me to believe this “orange monologue” is intentional. You see, Frank O’Hara’s poetry is fruitless. In one sense, it is literally without fruit (“I haven’t mentioned orange yet”) and, in another, it process and gestation is fruitless. O’Hara pithily includes, “It is even in / prose, I am a real poet.” If Mike Goldberg can get away with this fruitlessness in painting (or, I guess, Sardinelessness), maybe it is not O’Hara’s poetry that is fruitless but the rules to which it is confined: the arbitrary regulations that elevate prose or experimental poetry. This is further indicated by the tight vertical stanzas that stand in distinct contrast with the flowing loose sentences they contain. O’Hara’s experiment with word play makes-meaning in that it helps us understand a possible critique O’Hara is making.

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