Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sardines and oranges

I'm not sure why this poem speaks to me so, nor do I recall the precise circumstance of my encountering it (via) and it speaking to me, but isn't that the way with poetry.

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? 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.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

— Frank O'Hara

Perhaps the sentiment here — the present absence, or subtraction — might also explain why it is that I'm not a poet, even a writer. Or a mathematician.


Anonymous said...

This poem, and other O'Hara poems, feature heavily in ModPo - Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, an extraordinary MOOC offered through University of Pennsylvania by Al Filreis. I highly recommend it – I took it last Sept. and will be taking it again this fall. I never knew or cared much about poetry until Al got hold of me. ;)

Isabella Kratynski said...

I have decided that I quite like O'Hara. I considered taking that MOOC but opted for The Art of Poetry, with Robert Pinsky, at edX instead. But I might try ModPo next time it's offered.

seraillon said...

I was hoping, when I saw "Sardines and Oranges," that your post would be about this poem, an old favorite. There's a lot of good commentary about art and aesthetics in O'Hara's work. Have you read his excellent book on Jackson Pollock?

The MOOC sounds great. Off to look it up.

Anonymous said...

I'm registered for the edX course as well. :)

Cipriano said...

That ends up being a great poem, in a sardine-y sort of way!