Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Butchie {Frank O'Hara}

A long time ago I read Larry Rivers' autobiography (thank you Kurt). In it, he talks about his friendship with the poet Frank O'Hara. Fast forward five or so years, and I stumbled across Brad Gooch's City Poet, The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara.

O'Hara was primarily concerned and involved with the second-generation of abstract expressionists, and the early pop artists. He worked as a curator for MOMA and wrote poetry. He wrote prolifically, profoundly, and occasionally with an arch bitchiness that was as much a part of the literary scene in the '50s and '60s as it was the east coast gay scene. Called Butch when he enlisted in the Navy because he was kind of tough-looking, his fellow sailors were affectionately calling him Butchie by the end of his tour.

Like the nerd that I am, as I stumble across bits of his writing that I really love, I jott down a few of my favorite snatches and excerpts. And since I'm not in Jacksonville to gossip about what's happening there, nor have I yet made the Cleveland rounds, I thought I'd post them here:

From a letter to Larry Rivers, from O'Hara at the conclusion of their affair (they continued to be great friends until O'Hara's death in 1966--he was run over by a beach bus on Fire Island at 3 a.m., and by the time the physicians figured out he was bleeding internally, there was nothing to be done).

"But the worst thing of all about being rejected is the grotesquerie, it sits on one's back like a hump, a horrid tumor, which cannot be shaken, or cut off, or wished away. It is. And there is no making it not what it is."

Digression Number 1

Stars are out and there is sea
enough beneath the glistening earth
to bear me toward the future
which is not so dark. I see.

Naptha (written after the poet saw Jean DuBbuffet's 1959 MOMA show)

Ah Jean Dubeffet
when you think of him
doing his military service in the Eiffel Tower
as a meteorologist
in 1922
you know how wonderful the 20th Century
can be

That'll be all from me here today...I may post about my Michigan Experience over at ...belief in invisibility...

* first image: Alice Neel painting of O'Hara
**third image: a drawing of O'Hara by Rivers.
***fourth image: one of the results of the collaboration between O'Hara and Norman Bluhm

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