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AP Literature: Poetry: O'Hara, Frank

Poet

Bio

Frank O'Hara was a dynamic leader of the "New York School" of poets, a group that included John AshberyBarbara GuestKenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. The Abstract Expressionist painters in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s used the title, but the poets borrowed it. From the beginning O'Hara's poetry was engaged with the worlds of music, dance, and painting.

In that complex of associations he devised an idea of poetic form that allowed the inclusion of many kinds of events, including everyday conversations and notes about New York advertising signs. Since his death in 1966 at age forty, the depth and richness of his achievements as a poet and art critic have been recognized by an international audience. As the painter Alex Katz remarked, "Frank's business was being an active intellectual." He was that. His articulate intelligence made new proposals for poetic form possible in American poetry. 

Poem: A Step Away From Them

A Step Away from Them

Related Poem Content Details

It’s my lunch hour, so I go 
for a walk among the hum-colored   
cabs. First, down the sidewalk   
where laborers feed their dirty   
glistening torsos sandwiches 
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets   
on. They protect them from falling   
bricks, I guess. Then onto the   
avenue where skirts are flipping   
above heels and blow up over   
grates. The sun is hot, but the   
cabs stir up the air. I look   
at bargains in wristwatches. There   
are cats playing in sawdust. 
                                          On 
to Times Square, where the sign 
blows smoke over my head, and higher   
the waterfall pours lightly. A   
Negro stands in a doorway with a   
toothpick, languorously agitating.   
A blonde chorus girl clicks: he   
smiles and rubs his chin. Everything   
suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of   
a Thursday. 
                Neon in daylight is a   
great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would   
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.   
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET’S   
CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of   
Federico Fellini, è bell’ attrice. 
And chocolate malted. A lady in   
foxes on such a day puts her poodle   
in a cab. 
             There are several Puerto   
Ricans on the avenue today, which   
makes it beautiful and warm. First   
Bunny died, then John Latouche,   
then Jackson Pollock. But is the   
earth as full as life was full, of them?   
And one has eaten and one walks,   
past the magazines with nudes   
and the posters for BULLFIGHT and   
the Manhattan Storage Warehouse,   
which they’ll soon tear down. I   
used to think they had the Armory   
Show there. 
                A glass of papaya juice   
and back to work. My heart is in my   
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.

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