Why I Am Not a Painter
by: Frank O'Hara
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.
I always think of Frank O'Hara as a poet who took the freedom and bohemian joie de vivre of the Beats and classed it up a bit with some elegant phrasing and sardonic humor. I am sure that those who study poetry can give a million rebuttals to this sentiment and I would be summarily chastised, as I am a mere dilettante. However, there is no denying the humor and spectacular phrasing and rhythm inherent in this piece.
I chose this poem to kick off the new semester specifically because of the work's investigation into the winding, mysterious path of creativity. I suspect that both the contributors and the readers of this blog will be spending a good part of this semester either working on their own creative projects or examine the creative output of others and this poem at once humanizes and celebrates the unpredictability of the creative process, all with a charmingly droll humor.
Oranges: 12 Pastorals by Frank O'Hara