Spontaneous poetry

Written in passing, in my posting on a P.C. Vey cartoon in the New Yorker:

[If you’re a poet], everyone thinks that your task is trivial, because, like, poems are so short, how much work could it take to turn them out?

The closest I get to spontaneous, off-the-cuff poetry is the captions I create for various images, and I do a lot of these (see the Page on AZ captions), but they’re spontaneous only in comparison to my other free verse, which regularly takes days or weeks or more. So: maybe an hour or two for a few lines, which is really fast in my book. (Sometimes it’s finding a donnée, but always it’s the re-writing.)

Then there’s the wonderfully spontaneous poet Frank O’Hara, one of whose tossed-off poems “At the Old Place” (from 1955) appears in the current, August/September, issue of The Advocate (p. 32):

O’Hara flourished in a swirl mostly of painters and poets, many of them gay, and (from my 12/25/11 posting “Poet among the painters”)

dashed off poems at great speed, often during his lunch hours. The result was a few spectacular poems, many very good ones, but also a fair number of mediocre ones.

And a great many that would really have meaning only for his friends (in this case, his drinking and dancing buddies Joe LeSueur, John Button, John Ashbery, Jack Spicer, and a bunch of others). He didn’t publish many of these poems in his lifetime, and re-worked others before publication. (He would probably have kept some version of “a fast rhumba wth Alvin, like skipping on toothpicks”, all those words in /d/, and the reference at the end to their flagrant displays at the Old Place, but would either have edited the rest down or expanded it into a Whitmanesque avalanche of images.)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: