FRANK O'HARA: Poet Among Painters by Marjorie Perloff

FRANK O'HARA: Poet Among Painters

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When Frank O'Hara died in 1966 at the age of 40, Allen Ginsberg called him ""chattering Frank,"" ""the gaudy poet."" Ginsberg was stating a consensus about O'Hara's poetry, that, like the man, it was vivid and witty but not deeply serious. In the first full-length critical treatment of O'Hara's work, Marjorie Perloff attempts to annul the ""myth"" of frivolity and to ""right the balance"" between personal legend and poetic worth. Nevertheless, she relies heavily on biographical detail, as well as on literary-historical research, to gain access to the poems. On the one hand, she traces O'Hara's syntactical dislocations, cinematic transitions, and fondness for proper names, specific imagery, and unaccountable juxtapositions to the French surrealists, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, and abstract expressionist painting. But in order to make the substance of the poems at all coherent, she resorts to describing O'Hara's love affairs and daily rounds. Perloff does make a careful case for the poet's learnedness and the sustained (though intensely personal) growth of his technical ability; but the poems are finally full of odd references and haphazard flights, which Perloff never finds a satisfactory way to elucidate. Ultimately, for all her industry, she fails to demonstrate the necessity and authority of any but a few of the poems.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0226660591
Publisher: Braziller