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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Number 247: Frank O'Hara "A True Account Of Talking To The Sun At Fire Island"

A True Account Of Talking To The Sun At Fire Island

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying "Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don't be so rude, you are
only the second poet I've ever chosen
to speak to personally
so why
aren't you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day."
"Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal."

"When I woke up Mayakovsky he was
a lot more prompt" the Sun said
petulantly. "Most people are up
already waiting to see if I'm going
to put in an appearance."

I tried
to apologize "I missed you yesterday."
"That's better" he said. "I didn't
know you'd come out." "You may be
wondering why I've come so close?"
"Yes" I said beginning to feel hot
wondering if maybe he wasn't burning me
"Frankly I wanted to tell you
I like your poetry. I see a lot
on my rounds and you're okay. You may
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
you're different. Now, I've heard some
say you're crazy, they being excessively
calm themselves to my mind, and other
crazy poets think that you're a boring
reactionary. Not me.
Just keep on
like I do and pay no attention. You'll
find that people always will complain
about the atmosphere, either too hot
or too cold too bright or too dark, days
too short or too long.
If you don't appear
at all one day they think you're lazy
or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.

And don't worry about your lineage
poetic or natural. The Sun shines on
the jungle, you know, on the tundra
the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were
I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting
for you to get to work.

And now that you
are making your own days, so to speak,
even if no one reads you but me
you won't be depressed. Not
everyone can look up, even at me. It
hurts their eyes."
"Oh Sun, I'm so grateful to you!"

"Thanks and remember I'm watching. It's
easier for me to speak to you out
here. I don't have to slide down
between buildings to get your ear.
I know you love Manhattan, but
you ought to look up more often.
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely and with
the appropriate sense of space. That
is your inclination, known in the heavens
and you should follow it to hell, if
necessary, which I doubt.
Maybe we'll
speak again in Africa, of which I too
am specially fond. Go back to sleep now
Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem
in that brain of yours as my farewell."

"Sun, don't go!" I was awake
at last. "No, go I must, they're calling
"Who are they?"
Rising he said "Some
day you'll know. They're calling to you
too." Darkly he rose, and then I slept.

-- Frank O'Hara

Hap Notes: Yeah, it's an intended pun, sort of, it being Sunday and all and Frank talking to the sun. But really, it's just an excuse to have one of my favorite longer O'Hara poems on the blog.

The Mayakovsky poem he is referring to is "An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage". O'Hara also makes references to the Russian poet/playwright in his poem, titled, aptly enough, "Mayakovsky." If you'd like to see some of Maykovsky's poems (including the one O'Hara references today) go here:

This is a charming and amusing poem but O'Hara is touching on some mysterious stuff here. Note the phrase "excessively calm"; both amusing and telling, yes? What do you think O'Hara means when he says of the sun "darkly he rose"? Who or what do you think is calling to the sun (and O'Hara)?

Here is where we have talked about O'Hara before:

and here:

and here:

The masthead today is Van Gogh's "Reaper With Wheat Field And Sun." It's hard to think of an artist more intimate with the sun and its/his/her colors than Van Gogh. Do you even see the reaper in the painting? The sun and the wheat sort of swallow him.

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