Frank O'Hara: Poems Retrieved

The retrievals that Donald Allen made of Frank O'Hara's poems began in 1968 with his sorting through the manuscripts of poetry and prose in cartons and files that Kenneth Koch took away for safekeeping in two suitcases from Frank's loft at 791 Broadway the night in July, 1966, after Frank died––the nearly 700 items that first Kenneth and I and then Frank's sister Maureen and her husband at the time Walter Granville-Smith subsequently photocopied a few weeks later. Together with the versions already published in books, magazines and anthologies, these manuscripts formed the textual basis for what Donald Allen––Don, as I came to know him as a neighbor in Bolinas in the 1970s––would call, when it first appeared, in 1971, "the splendid palace known as The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara." A pared-down volume The Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara, also edited by Don, came out in 1974, followed the next year by the book of uncollected prose, Standing Still and Walking in New York. It was in the latter book that Don first used the term "retrieved."

—an excerpt from the Introduction by Bill Berkson to Poems Retrieved, Frank O'Hara.

* * *

[Pussywillows! Oh You're Still Here . . . ]


     Pussywillows! oh you're still here, in a bottle of water grown green
with scum, near the bust and out the window in the fashionable sunshine.
     Yes, electric charms, speaking always. A green radiator with a black
top below the dirty window sill.


     The face of my clock is the face of New York, isn't it? bought late in
April, early in March. Bloomingdale's. Beacon Ace. The E. Ingraham Co.,
Bristol, Conn., USA. Oh) Ingraham Co., made in Bristol, Conn., USA, S
to F, Time, Alarm. Always at it! and the synthetic aura of 5 minute coffee,
that Romanticism, tasting of lips and of brown morning whiskey.

                                                                                                                  [New York, April?, 1954]


I don't eat wheat
and I wear my violin strings
around my neck in case I need them

Snow is being sent from the mountains
I lie down like the flowers
it is an elevator shaft, this island

Sweet nursery rhyme describing manna
and how far away all that is good is
and music, too

when I am absent weeps
as if the children overburdened
by my incessant playing

Oh heart described
you are being pushed out of existence
by a mysterious swelling

Men are angels
                                                                                                                  [New York, July 1954]




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