I found a copy of The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara at Westider Books in New York last week which I bought on David Bowie’s recommendation. Not personal recommendation but one given in a list of essential reading that I found shortly after he died. I bought Frank O’Hara’s book even though I didn’t like the other book I read from Mr. Bowie’s list.
I don’t read books of poetry straight through. I think that’s nuts, unless you’re some sort of poetry professor. Instead I read one or two pages a day, like a devotional. I started Mr. O’Hara today with the first poem in his collection.
Here it is in its entirety which is probably illegal, but I liked enough to take my chances.
Autobiographia LiterariaWhen I was a child I played by myself in a corner of the schoolyard all alone I hated dolls and I hated games, animals were not friendly and birds flew away. If anyone was looking for me I hid behind a tree and cried out "I am an orphan." And here I am, the center of all beauty! writing these poems! Imagine!
I find this poem both funny and exciting. Funny because the picture of the speaker’s childhood is so over-the-top. “I am an orphan!” That’s a funny line, even if it’s true. Exciting because the ugly duckling turned swan finish. An author of poems! Creator of beauty who now stands in the center of it all.
That’s a pretty good way to start out a volume of poetry.