Sunday, April 13, 2008

New O'Hara reviewed in last week's New Yorker

A new Frank O'Hara Selected Poems is now out, edited by Mark Ford. I just read about it in the New Yorker, and it sounds great. Although I'm not sure what was wrong with the Donald Allen Selected from '74. That's a classic. The review, by Dan Chiasson, mentions how unwieldy the Collected is, and I feel so vindicated by that. I always feel inadequate because I can't get through collecteds. Even some selecteds are too much for me. Too sweeping, too unfocused.

But I love Frank O'Hara and have felt guilty for not getting a copy of the Collected. So I'm now looking forward to getting this new Selected. It might be a great way of re-entering familiar poems and re-hearing unfamiliar ones.

From Chiasson's review:

... O'Hara's first real accomplishment was his personality, which became famous long before h is poems did. but his personality was always a brilliant contrivance, practically a work of art: improvised, self-revising, full of feints... Someone with O'Hara's presence could afford to regard the writing of poetry as a secondary act, a transcript of personality.

... Imagine the person who begins a poem, "I live above a dyke bar and I'm happy."

... the pleasures of reading Ford's edition of O'Hara are the pleasures of the zigzag. ("My quietness has a number of naked selves," O'Hara insisted, elevating, as always, the protean over the stable.) He swerves toward autobiography, then away; he veers toward intimacy, then corrects toward abstraction.

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