Story of NY in 10 Objects. #6 O'Hara's Lunch Box Poems

It was slightly surprising that Frank O’Hara’s 1964 collection Lunch Poems came in at number six on our list, but it turns out to be a very good way of looking at New York City. As NYU professor Lytle Shaw, author of the book Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie explains “Lunch Poems is a condensed and highly accessible book that is smaller than a subway map.” That feature makes it easy to take the book anywhere. Shaw described it as having the potential to “acclimatize you to the things New York has to offer.”

O’Hara is unlike many mid-century poets, not only in how he structured his work, but what he chose to include in it. “He was happy to welcome Ginger Rogers and Lana Turner onto the same pages as Picasso and Beckett,” Shaw said. Listen to Frank O’Hara reading the poem “Lana Turner has Collapsed!” here.
The collection contains poems written over the course of 11 years, starting in 1953 and is filled with references to New York, from Times Square and Bergdorf’s to places that do not even exist anymore. It’s a period in New York history that seems increasingly unrecognizable to us (despite mention of O’Hara in TV shows like ‘Madmen‘). “This is a time when most artists can afford to live in Manhattan,” Shaw said “it’s a more intimate and workable New York for the arts community in which you can go to a particular bar and expect to see a range of painters you know. I can’t think of a place like that now.”
See more here. 

Leave a Reply