Yesterday’s anniversaries

Yesterday, August 9th, was the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resigning the Presidency of the United States. And the New York Times had an appreciation of Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems”, which was first published in 1964 and has now been reissued by City Lights. A startling juxtaposition of personalities: the awkward, often surly, and fiercely ambitious politician Nixon versus the charming and gregarious poet, with his great gift for friendship.

Personal recollections: Nixon’s resignation came during the 1974 Linguistic Institute; I was living in a communal house, rented for the summer from a UMass-Amherst professor who was traveling with his family that summer. (Housemate Geoff Pullum and I taught a course together at the Institute.) The Nixon resignation was virtually the only time the household used the television set, and we were a rapt audience. It was a celebratory moment.

As for O’Hara, I came to him (and many other poets) through my first male lover, who expanded my poetic tastes considerably. What a delight. See my posting here of 12/25/11, “Poet among the painters”, on O’Hara, his life, and his poetry.

From the City Lights website on the anniversary edition of Lunch Poems:

This new limited 50th anniversary edition contains a preface by John Ashbery and an editor’s note by City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, along with facsimile reproductions of a selection of previously unpublished correspondence between Ferlinghetti and O’Hara that shed new light on the preparation of Lunch.

… 
Known throughout his life for his sociability, passion, and warmth, O’Hara had many great friends throughout his life, many from the New York poetry, art, and music worlds.

… 
During his lifetime O’Hara was known as a “poet among painters,” part of a group of poets — John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Bill Berkson, and Barbara Guest — who found inspiration and support from the painters they chose to associate with.

And then from Dwight Garner:

Cigarettes, Coffee, a Stop at the Liquor Store: Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lunch Poems’ Turn 50

Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems,” the little black dress of American poetry books, redolent of cocktails and cigarettes and theater tickets and phonograph records, turns 50 this year. It seems barely to have aged.

O’Hara wrote these poems, some during his lunch hour, while working at the Museum of Modern Art. He started at MoMA as an information desk clerk and, though he lacked formal training, became a curator. He had a painterly eye and a silvery personality.

“Lunch Poems” was urbane and sociable, a cheerful rebuke to the era’s more determined academic verse. “I do this I do that” poetry, O’Hara called his work, and this collection’s first poem, “Music,” sets the tone of his free-associating voice and method.

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf’s
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.

More examples in my earlier posting.

One Response to “Yesterday’s anniversaries”

  1. A further Nixonian note | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] a posting yesterday I paired Richard M. Nixon with the poet Frank O’Hara, both of whom have significant […]

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