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 “In the Movies”, 206-209
· interesting that this poem has not been picked up by the critics for it is an easy point to indicate the importance of films in O'Hara’s aesthetic indicating the dissolves, cuts and montage effects he has been credited with and whilst I do not like to appropriate analogous terms in this fashion the montage of O'Hara is easily distinguishable form the collage of Ashbery in that here it is the movement from image to image in an attempt at seamlessness, a basic synaesthesia of subject in the now of consciousness.
· in addition to the basic aesthetic implications of this use of films there are also certain other issues that he raises here but does not really develop to any great degree thus the dramatisation of the second stage of desire, manifested in the influence of the Gaze, is presented here with the use of the eye metonym, what is interesting further is the role or rather the modified role of the hand which here has an erotic function due the gay world of cinemas and sexuality that he is partly presenting here, which further leads to an actualisation of the phallic role of the gaze process with it literally being an erection here.
· the poem itself follows a basic musicality of the description of the process of watching the film, cuts from the film, an eroticisation of the process of cinema going, floods. This in itself is charming but not altogether successful, what I need from this is the various allegorical moments of the eye/screen.
· stanza 1: here the eye-metonym works through the synaesthesia of the body with the process of viewing. This is complicated, is this merely an opening up of the synecdoches, i.e., the eye represents this and this and this, or is it really a mode of synaesthesia where everything becomes everything fused by the “occasion of these ruses” which is the subject interaction with the real through the dual process of poetic language?
· “the point of intersection a foot in front of me” is another version of “A Step Away from Them”, whilst the coincidence of the cornea and the muse is not merely accidental but becomes literally true as his poetry becomes more a product of the real. The eye here is also associated with flowers (the blooming of the pupil etc.?) and with the movement of water which is of course analogous to the movement of film itself. This would be a nice contrast with “The Portrait of Little JA...”, with the stasis contrasting nicely with the endless motion here.
· “its music / its mirrors” is a fine coda for the poem’s mid section which mixes the subjectivity with the music of poetic language and the process of film
· stanza 14: the summation here combines different sense of the word projection of course, the poem ends with the screen (other/lover) and the poet fusing in a kiss thus the poet seeks to fuse with the other but the occasion of love here must be mistrusted as it is not really an occasion of sharing but of domination, as is indicated by the aggressive sense of sexual domination ins aspects of the poem. Other motifs includes the reworking of the face here as the screen or version of, and of the ghostly figures on the screen. This use of self as ghost is perhaps an easier way for him to formulate relations with the other he cannot absorb and synthesise, thus ghost is present and absent but am unsure of the depth of the significance of this motif here.
Frank O’Hara “Music”, 210
· perhaps one of the most significant of the LP, it opens the collection of course and indicates the median position between the expressionistic creations of earlier years, his “Surrealism”, and the aleatory poems of later works. It is lunch here but the demonstration of musicality is restricted to be only brief interactions with the actual real, rather than the predominance of motifs in works such as “Oranges”. Rather music is the potentiality of synthesis and order within the self/real dichotomous subject.
· the poem is divided into units by indentations but they are not paragraphs at all so one must as reader comes to terms with this marking of the poem and how it operates, certainly it has the effect of isolating units which fragments the rhythm a little producing a number of moments of stress/crisis or pause if you like at the poem’s beginning, mid point and end. These are three significant moments semantically in the poem so in this sense the design is dictated to by semantic concerns.
· there is little point in going into the various temporal and pronominal shifts here, nor the logical syntactical structures which he abuses “if..., the...” which have been called non-sequitorial but in fact are the very essence of the motivation towards poeticity that the sequence in poetry is possessed with. The time and verbal moods may be key with the subjunctive sense of “if”, the opening is a period of rest, “rest”, “pausing”, which however is contrasted then with verbs of motion as the real moves about the subject. In response the subject is held in various states of intense reverie, vulnerability: “naked as a tablecloth”, “my nerves humming”, “it’s so meaningless to eat”, “I must tighten my belt”, “clasp me in your handkerchief”, “I shall see my daydreams walking by”. The outside world then moves around the subject in such a manner that the subject is permanently under threat as indeed the automaton is always under threat by the occasion or event of the tuché, and musicality is always under threat by the irruption of the novel.
· the music comes then from the transformations of the tuché by the repetitious domination of the automaton which defines our basic subjectivity. The subject of postmodern uncertainty is doubly marked by the duality which comes from the automaton, iterability, and the irruption of the automaton by the tuché, which is always itself a repetition as it is semiotic, which is endlessly repetitious, and in that the real can only be encountered in the secondary mode of its representation in signifying practice, grammatology etc., as the originary presence which gives the automaton the grand permission of being.
· the motifs then motivate the subject by being motivated by the subject: “The Equestrian” becomes both a proper name signifier, (Mayflower Shoppe”, Bergdorf’s”, Park Avenue” and a lead into the horse (l.3). The point made about the use of proper names which has a degree of impropriety about it, is not accurately made by critics whom seem unable to deal with modes of signification other than metaphor and symbol. Here as throughout his poetry, proper names have at least the function of being synecdoches for New York at that particular time. They do not symbolise New York but summarise it in non-emphatic or non-hierarchical terms thus he does not make New York its landmarks but the elements of the city as real in interaction with the subject. This is very much an inheritance from Surrealism and symbolist Flanuers. The same is true of the proper names of friends/poets/painters. They are not canonical, but they do construct a world in which the subject is operating within larger but limited systems of interaction which in and of itself is also indicative of the role of “music” in New York School poetry which in many ways is merely and introduction of the aleatory into a Mallarméan closed system.
· the “if” here is highly significant because is suggests a metonymic world rather than a metaphoric one, if I do this this will happen, because I am like this this happens. This sense of self is again at odds with Ashbery if Ashbery is indeed aspectual for it replaces the “as” with the “because”. This makes O'Hara highly mathematical and allegorical. The “moment” is of course important and like Ashbery’s “archival moment” it is a deep immediacy which however is not the carefully worked out conflation of temporal mood we find in Ashbery so what to call it? The “action moment”, the “immediacy of doing it”?
· the sandwich again is not without a tropic significant, it is the real and aleatory as figure and again fits in with the causality of his aesthetic, all that follows is because he pauses to eat, further the later phrase “it’s so meaningless to eat” conveys the semantic role of lunch in Lunch Poems, which is simply to put the poet within the immediate moments of “meaninglessness”, which is as much to say this activity has blankness to it which allows for the causality of immediacy to occur. What must be fought against is the sense that what he is doing, actually doing, is writing poetry, in favour of a more sophisticated sense of “action” which is simply that of doing it, that is of being as such.
· the interactions here are not at all non-sequitorial as they are all based in this potential world of ifs and seeming. The “nakedness” of the cloth is also the blank page of lunching, whilst the nerves humming is the subjective indicator of inspiration. The preceding figure of the angel leading the horse must still be read symbolically as the muse leading the monumental into his place of lunching, we now know the horse to intertextually signify this. This is then reiterated by the fear of “war and stars” which are the two values that the horse/angel coupling represent.
· the following figures all seem to stress the delicacy and danger of the immediate: the threat of war and the end of the eternal of followed by the specificity and temporality of money, of his actions, of the ephemerality of fountains, of the hammers on the glass piano (its music!). The following line, which stresses the poet’s campness, is very simply motivated: lips = eating = leaves, must = causality, tighten belt = eating = only 35c = meaninglessness of eating = not eating., then the poem shifts attention from the aleatory to the archival, the season of distress and clarity, which is this heightened state of nervousness which is the time of poetry, of Lunch, echoes the marching of war and the teleology of the angel.
· the following figures then loses touch with the now and move increasingly into the subjective realm of consciousness. The door here is the poet’s own being whilst the snow flakes are echoes of the dying stars, droplets of water, the tear, the coloured lights and the rain. Note the temporal changes in scale from moments, to almost ritual times such as lunch, through general periods, afternoons, to the day to dayness of the “newspapers”, through seasons to eternity.
· the handkerchief is of course the tablecloth and yet is also an interpersonal motif similar to the idea of Personism, that is that the poem could itself be something given to someone to carry away in their pocket. Note tear could also be tear as in ripe. The temporal shifts again stress the movement from the aleatory to the realm of the subject here which is that of the automaton. It is not possibly for the real to be in the subject, the subject always must encounter the real as outside, other, before or yet to come.. The dogs in blankets echo the movement of the horse whilst the lights come on are both a return to the now, and also echo of the stars and other particulates.
· the closing stanza of phrase adds the “but” of causality” to the “if”, this is a vital aspect of figurative dynamics which has simply been ignored in poetry, instead of the aspectual sense of this is like this or this is as that, or even this seen as that, we have the “if this then that, because of this I do that, but of not then this”. The ending of the tropic activity of the water is matched by the opening of the stores which indicates literally a shift in season from the actual, October, to the imagined, December. The openness of late then is the opposite to the other temporal zone of the moment which opens the piece, thus this is the counterpoint of the musicality of the piece.
Frank O’Hara “Poem (I watched an armory combing its bronze bricks”, 215-216
· a simple articulate structure the mark of the poem is these two different worlds one of which is indented with short lines but the stanzas do not motivate towards these two worlds as they change stanzaic locales throughout. The poem is interesting then in the manner in which he is still negotiating between his symbolist imagery and the aleatory details of occasion, here moving into his new apartment.
· stanza 1-3 fit into the fantasy/actuality model though stanza 2 bracketing between 1 & 3 necessarily motivates it towards motifs found there thus the grey radiators relates by colour and material to the “glistening rails of milk”, the bricks make up the home, the ascension of steps takes us into the sky, the radiators refer to the winter and so on.
· stanza 4: the motif then leaks over and the synthetic world we have become used to begins here thus the here of stanza 5 is no longer Ukraine or the armory but the literal here of the apartment, the doubling of the phrase however recalls the double vision manifest in here, as does the resonance of “tea and tears”, reference “Music”.
· stanza 6-7: returns back to the basic articulation but the “him” of 7, the beloved, combines with the “if” of 8, the condition of figural causality so the second half of the poem moves into love lyric and the poet takes up the mask of desire “I must travel and collect”, “you are made of fire and wood”, “I am good”, “I am really a woodcarver”. The room ends then as a scene set for love, the anti-pastoral of the homosexual interior.
· thus we really have a tripartite system: the subjective realm of imagination, the aleatory realm of the event, the poet of desire as mediator between via the inter-subjective process of Personism which is equal to poem as love gift of course.
Frank O’Hara “Nocturne”, 224-5
· it is preceded by number of interesting instances in poems:
· “Poem (There cold never be a boy)”, 216-7 which is an autobiographical piece about homosexuality, youth and his mother
· “To the Harbourmaster”, 217 read by Ashbery as the funeral it is a lovely little poem where the self as ship offers a more sustained version of the self to contrast with the much more challenging post-modern self we find in his more ambitious works.
· “Poem (The eyelid has its storms. There is the opaque fish-)”, 223 which has a further extension of the eye-metonym
· “At the Old Place”, 223-4 presenting an alternative to a step away for here they are a step away from the, suggesting a greater significance of sexuality to the articulating gap which establishes inter-personal relations
· the poem beings with a lovely and simple interpersonal love lyric, this then is interrupted by the small sentence “It’s space”. This refers to what is to follow, which is the height/breadth of New York, but also the space between the two lovers which disallows proper communication and finally the space between New York and the lovers which gets filled in later by the synthetic omnipresence of the poet.
· what follows is a representational picture of uptown New York very similar to Schuyler, this is then fused into the poet as buildings via the motif of his eyes which is both the mode of observation of the other central to desire and also to poetic observation.
· the final four lines are almost perfect. The causal-metonym takes over proceedings and the loneliness of the poet as building is reformulated he via the essential motif of the telephone and the gap of living in the city, the semi-colon (quite rare in his work I think), associates this predicament with synecdoches of the city as a whole thus this city which is also the poet, is both the field into which lovers are introduced and the condition of their inability to communicate so the city is really the canvas arena of the AbEx.
Frank O’Hara “On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art”, 233-4
· the history of the piece is important of course with Rivers taking up the last nineteenth century representations of the event and reworking them to situate a frightened, pink-faced, semi-erased Washington, diffident and human on the edge of the river. Then there is the play, by Ashbery?, and finally O'Hara’s response. Rivers was attacked for moving back into history painting and representation and O'Hara had to be convinced of the value of the work.
· stanza 1: the pants and nose are references to the painting itself, the flag and the colour white are not accidentally yoked together here, rather they are part of the cowardice of such situations of force, were America in Korea at this time?, the trembling nose is simply contrasted too the calm river which is the force of history.
· stanza 3: the dialogue between militarism and humanity gets set up here with theory and abstractions becoming smoke, “billows above / the physical event...” The final line is both ironic and true and conveys a general sense of the complexity of American democracy which is always singular and plural at the same time.
· stanza 4-5: here Washington becomes an O'Hara figure in that his position is only tenable in O'Hara’s eyes is Washington followed the O'Hara code of reinvention, again the flag but now it is a skull and cross bones. The poem is dominated by different modes of seeing, seeing the painting and Washington’s return, “sighting a redcoat”, “smoke”, “the rusty flintlock” becoming “freedom glinting on your gun barrel”, “the misty glare”, “you see the general fear”. The crossing the water other than that of the bridge sets him up again as American modernist almost, but the violence associated with the pioneering modernity is also conceded. Thus the white of the eyes (also his pants, the snow, flags, the mist), is transposed to the gun barrel, seeing is akin to shooting here which relates back to the poem’s title of course. The general fear then turns the gun barrel around back onto the nation especially as there are no more rivers to cross not red-coats to shoot.
Frank O’Hara “Poem (Instant coffee with slightly sour cream)”, 244-5
· a number if the preceding poems contains lines that are of interest such as “Poem (And tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock in Springfield, Massachusetts,)” which deals with death and is the famous line about the leaf and the sun, and “Dialogues” which is not at all dialogic.
· the poem is incredibly simple, the beginning is aleatory and full of the small disappointments that life really is full of, the drop down of “in it” establishes a slight pause of distancing which the poem is about for the next line is the now symbolic phone call, the phone here is like the poem a means of bringing the other nearer but it never actually does bring them any nearer does it?
· the second scene is divided from the first by the voice which is actually from A Street Car Named Desire (I think), the second scene reverses the I and its desire for the other and looks at how his self is now held in the seeing hands of other, i.e. in their poetry. The conflation of hand-eye-poem is of course the very point of the New York School Orphic re-evaluation. The final sentence deals with the two types of love which typify desire, the first love (Breton), and all subsequent ones which are the dissatisfactions and impossibilities of desire. The phone call from beyond then could be from the original lover whilst the “instant coffee with slightly sour cream” is the compromise of all subsequent loves. Here the aleatory then is transformed into the deep-space of the symbolic with the citation, which is necessarily a deepening of the poetic space, the drop down of line 1 which stress spatiality and also the depth of the surface.
Frank O’Hara “Spring’s First Day”, 245
· interesting different kind of poem which is very early Ashbery in its use of manufactured discourse to construct the poem from, thus the issues of the I are removed and the world is reduced to commerce. The irony of the title then is that this is the first day of the new spring, the new pastoral world won for Americans by Washington, that of accumulation and possession.
· the poem then picks up on “New Realism”, demotic speech, taxonomy in politicised sense of consumer fetishism.
Frank O’Hara “A Step Away From Them”, 257-8
· the spatiality is the key to one aspect of his poetry and the articulating gap between the I and the you but also the problematic gap between being and living which the myth of the action poem attempts to eradicate. This is made further complex by the term being at first the living but them later the dead.
· the aleatory details of course, as in “The Day Lady Died”, are not random but have a degree of motivation towards images of being alive (eating, protection, the sun, the honk of life in the city). In this way then this is a pastoral poem as is “The Day Lady Died”, the topography wherein the lost beloved can be mourned and it works in a similarly cataphoric manner.
· the conclusion however is disappointingly Romantic with art substituting for what is lost, what is significant here is that the poet here, really until the last line, is removed as Orphic presence and even sees fit at one point to depersonalise himself “And one had eaten and one walks”. The subject here then is not in the scene at all which places him in a metonymic and serial relation to the objective world, rather than in an elevated meta-position or a synthetic coincidental.
Frank O’Hara “Lisztiana, Much Later”, 259-260
· interesting version of Personism, here the T-shirt is the means of interpersonal communication.
· stanza 1: begins with a contrast between being in (the T-shirt) and being outside. The I and the you fill out their appropriate positions in this case.
· stanza 2: the I takes over the T-shirt and they become one. The inversion “Are you there? // there, are you?” produces the specularity of desire that the T-shirt is the occasion of, the dropping into another stanza stressing the gap between.
· stanza 3-5: the storm them, presumably an argument between the two of them, is one type of means of filling up the gap between, but the T-shirt then takes over the role of mediation.
· this is a version of the idea of being needed by things and also by the means of metonymy’s relation to desire structures in that it is literal contiguity which matters there.
Frank O’Hara “Digression on Number 1, 1948”, 260
· the opening refrain puts forward a subjective uncertainty which is in contradistinction to the certainty of Pollock’s work.
· stanza 2: sets up seeing as doing, part of the hand-eye metonym completed in stanza 3 so that in the final stanza “I see” is equal to “I am” putting forward a kind of seeing-as-being.
Frank O’Hara “Poem Read at Joan Mitchell’s”, 265-267
· the poem is the very essence of Personism. It is occasional, addresses directly to two people only, is only fully comprehensible to the coterie, but there is also a number of extra dimensions including the doubleness of the heterosexual couple versus the singularity of the usual beloved, the difference between heterosexual and homosexual couplings, the anxiety he felt at losing Jane Freilicher at this moment. The title stresses the limited nature of the piece, its specificity of place, time and purpose.
· stanza 1-2: interesting view of this process of coupling which is addressed in terms of the aesthetics of the New York School, which is that of novelty and the interpersonal, the marriage then diffuses the need for Personism for they are finally a couple, this is something generally opposed to the homosexual community, especially the cruising community he was a part of.
· stanza 3-4: the poem consists of the circumstance of the poem and the situation of the poet, thus poetry and life are brought as close as is absolutely possible.
· stanza 5: again marriage is viewed here in terms of a radical new concept, there may be something a little churlish and ironic about this as in a sense Freilicher is moving from the radical bachelordom of New York School to the conservatism of marriage.
· stanza 6: again the poet is avoiding saying anything very much about the marriage, here the city takes over as the protagonist and their coupling is seen terms merely of what they saw together.
· stanza 7: again the self-reflexivity of the piece tries to remove all gaps between poet’s meditations and the result. Also suggests a basic motivation of his poetic marks, long because friendship is long, short because lunch is short and so on.
· stanza 8: shows the real anxiety for again all is dealt with in terms of before they were a couple and how that was a great thing after all, almost begging the question why are they bothering to marry then?
· the final lines suggest a “we” which is the homosexual community looking to the heterosexual for a model of their own possible future attainments of happiness.
Frank O’Hara “John Button Birthday”, 267-8
· another occasional poems, this deals a lot more with the present tense it contains many motifs of his aesthetic including the now-ness of his occasional asides, the idea of lack at the centre of linguistic activity, saying that poetry only describes.
· the final stanza which is one verse paragraph block changes the rhythm and design completely it is a passage of remembering, of the grease of memory which has stuck to him, including momentary pleasures, the subjectivity of every now “I mean your now”, and the futurity which is seen in terms of ancient universals.
· tries to be an action poem of the memory I guess, both these poems have equivocal status then as the very nature of the anniversary and the hymen or nuptial poems is riven with elements which contradict his very aesthetic which he is developing at this time. They are in danger of becoming monumental because they are marking a privileging of experiences symbolised by the lift raising up and the mountain also.
Frank O’Hara “Anxiety”, 268-9
· this poem comes in at an alternative to what might be seen as the predominant conception of the poetic psyche at the time which is that of the damaged but deep self which the title suggests and is of course the origin of confessional poetry. Thus the poem aims at debunking this myth by recasting anxiety as forgetting to do something. The line “I can’t remember how / I felt, so perhaps I feel better” is a deliberate attack on this subject as depth concept then.
· in contrast to the depth model, his subjective model is one of openness, height and light.
· the conclusion then juxtaposes the depth model of the psyche with the self as cleaning of windows that is as a mode of improving vision of the outside world not the inner.
Frank O’Hara “Ode to Willem De Kooning”, 283-285
· one of a number of odes of this period they leave off the aleatory aspects of Lunch Poems and head back into the elevated denseness of earlier poems, even becoming semi-mythological in parts. The design of each ode is interesting and sets up as I have already noted a kind of alternative shift of rhythm from strophe to anti-strophe, and is a replacement for complex rhyme schemes. What I need to note for these issues of design is the way in which he is taking rhythm away from breath measure and means of being expressive, to the eye so that they form a kind of visual rhythm is you like which in not in itself expressive. Here the couplet columns are dropped down so as to presage the dyadic/triadic feet of later on, they are divided up by full length couplets then a central lyrical column thus like AbEx painting, there is an internal formalism which can be traced forcing the eye to travel over the page in a number of varying ways. It is difficult to say if this fits in with the subject matter except some of the poem is about going on, which the drop couplets do, and some is about horizon or lines which matches the long couplets. The central lyrical section does seem to move into a semi-mythical landscape which is in keeping with the appearance of these stanzas. Thus the poem is divided by its design into three clearly discernible zones, the articulated balance and advancement of section 1, the conservative restriction of section 2, and the more fragmented or better variable lines of section 3.
· section 1: the poem takes up de Kooning’s palette, which is a nice reworking of the idea of New Realism I guess, and relates the huge size of the canvases to the size of the city, the section sets up a contrast between the nervy and changeable, and the more monumental sense of greatness. The self he portrays here desires a being within the canvas, a kind of action-seeing or seeing-as-being, and this is matched by the emphasis on clarity, size, colour and of course the eye-metonym. A sense of scale and height is established, but it is also presented in an urban environment. The concept of futurity here is interesting, it has no exact spatiality just as the canvases dispense with depth and any traditional sense of spatial relationships, and rather deals merely with a vague movement “on as we must go on”.
· section 2: less interesting, it takes up a number of motifs, would-be symbols perhaps taken from viewing canvases thus there is the ruby/blood/rose, fields and horizons, dawn (de Kooning’s palette)
· section 3: Dawn here is not here a traditional symbol of renewal but has a kind of nihilism about it, eradicating belief systems, moisture, spiders, blindness, it is personified into the painter rising in the city-state and about to begin his work again. The role then of this Dawning, a form of advancement and regression, is left unclear as to whether it is be-jewelled or wounding.
Frank O’Hara “Ode to Michael Goldberg (‘s Birth and Other Births), 290-298
· a highly complex autobiographical poem, it retreads the material of “In Mem...” and refers often to the confessional poets but it treads an equivocal line. It is not sustained by the complex interaction of imagery here, the images are literally parts of his childhood etc. and therefore they deny any depth-theory, yet the poem does seem to concede the Freudian sense of subject as depth in parts. It is fairly chronological and has the following structure:
· 290-292: narrative of childhood and emerging sexuality
· 293: a symbolic section dealing with Catholicism and new versions of self as units
· 293-294: debate of death and life which also brings in a sudden aleatory section
· 294-296: another long piece on his time in the navy
· 296: a kind of fusion of aspects of the navy, New York and childhood through the motif of the foot, poetry but also literally meant here which again shows a desire to reduce the connotative power of the symbol current with Lowell for example where each detail becomes depth-orientated
· 297: small lyrical section on love and expansion of self which is cleverly likened to America’s part in the space race.
· 297-8: final section has complex and exhilarating design it moves through various scenes with incredible lightness of touch: the somatic, childhood games made into adult ideologies of self (cycling no-hands), New York scene (ritual #1), a prayer (ritual #2), the beginning of reference to the “settlement” (a complex word which, apart from all the mythological implications, also suggests compensation and compromise of self), ritual #3 in the teahouse, the final navy implicated narrative of self-making and creating.
· the challenges of memory and childhood to the New York School are legion for it presupposes a depth and archival self model which the action poet/painter cannot accept in the present instant of creating/being yet cannot also get rid of, it also contravenes the spatiality of their work so it is an ultimate challenge, especially to poetry because at this point it is the dominant discourse of American poetry.
· 290: the very complexity of the design of the poetry keeps the eye roving continuously and thus in the present tense of reading, yet the poem is full of autobiographical symbols of emerging sexuality and parental conflict which convey a depth-psychology. The poem opens in a bid for the immemorial which typifies the event based poetics he is working on, then it also deals with the pastoral element which is a major motif in his work and needs a full development in the piece, the third stanza then enters into a semi-Romantic world of the past returning into the present thus melding the pastoral world with the current urban one. This section contains a number of clear symbols, the porch that isn’t a veranda, the door, the entrapment of the netting, the brown suit of conformity. The lines “in a forest you think of birds, in traffic you think of tires / where are you?” suggests a contra-depth sense where it is the immediate environment which influence you and yet we have the “faint stirring” in traffic to confound this.
· 291: the poet’s birth is seen in plain terms as the conflict between his demands and his mother’s world where these demands must be situated thus a sense of the past world of childhood belonging to others is in keeping with later myths of self-making.
· 293: here the stanzaic blocks put forward attempts I think of isolating the self from the “invisible bonds”, his concession to depth, into these little self-sufficient boxes of alternative centres containing blackness, flames, the ornamental, but then this is ruined by its absorption into the symbols and colours of Catholicism. In this concession to religion however are two central New York School conceptions:
1. the self-centre as perpetually soaring and talking and re-forming
2. the importance of the simple contiguity of things being to hand
· the stuff on death here is simple but illuminating and perhaps suggests and implied elegiac structure to the whole chapter which however is only ever implied as the theoretical aspects would be missing entirely at this point.
· 295: here the conception of depth is nicely formed through the brutal process of the bulldozer and is excavations, not only is this parodic but again it conveys a sense of self through American expansion as in the reference to the satellite previously.
· 296: really quite a confusing section the foot seems to have no direct reference except to literal events yet in fact it has been a kind of sustained image from the “being kicked around”, the cut-off legs in the cinema, the transfixed Mercury, through the accident in the navy. The horse also has a peculiar symbolic status here.
· 297-298: again a quite dense intersection of different modes of being, the repetition of simultaneity as a kind of democracy is a very urban reworking of the role of the pastoral as if because everything can happen at once in the city that makes us a community, the other passages on ritual and settlement seem to fit in with this then with the idea that we could find other means of forming community than depth and ritual thus the chalice and the tea gets replaced by the 5 o’clock Martinis of the end of the working day. Thus the final version of the navy is exactly this sense of self-creation, the slavery being memory and childhood thus the pain of birth is taken over or appropriated by the poet as a kind of version of being born again on his own terms.
Frank O’Hara “Ode (to Joe Lesueur) on the Arrow that Flieth by Day), 300
· Hartigan describes the theme of this poem as how not to be afraid as a postmodern plural self. Lesueur describes the aleatory manner in which the poem was constructed in HFO.
· the poem then deals with the mix of eventhood and subsequent discourse thus is, as all his poems are, a self-conscious investigations of the specificity of the tuché and the joissance of the automaton. Here, the now scene is that of his coterie and of his milieu, interspersed with this is the significance of the occasion, this being an aborted occasional poem, but whereas the poem should be and inter-personal address to the poet’s mother, instead is addressed to Joe. This not only gives us insight into his biography, but also tells us of the maternal presence of Joe (the lover) generally. The other is always a woman even is the lover-subject is homosexual for in a sense all love is homosexual, self love.
· the function of the radio or of the media in general seems to be a mediated aleatory influence i.e. one can choose ones station but not what is then played. This opening stanza is then followed by a regulated design of one prose stanza then 2 shorter poetic ones, the importance of the design and the mark is made straight away with the punctuation games. The radio opens up a series of different forms of address: radio, direct address, telegram, signs “CONTEST...”, the arrow, breath, the symphony, the people saying”. The now-address seems confined to the prose thus the rhythm of the poem is between the 2 and then between the self, the arrow being the movement of the interpersonal which is key to O'Hara at all times at this time.
· other minor aspects include the concept of pain as “extra”, of the passage/breath, and the importance of death as always. The desire to turn the arrow the other way is part of the overall process wherein he would wish to gain mastery over the past in some way shape or form.