Frank O’Hara & the (Extra)Ordinary

frank-ohara book cover

In this month’s post for One Clover & A Bee over at Hilltown Families I recommend a writing challenge based on a poem by the inimitable Frank O’Hara.

O’Hara might seem a strange choice for a column devoted to poetry for families, but in this case (and many others, IMO), he’s the perfect antidote to our aversion to the ordinary.  In the world of O’Hara— if you look closely—there is no such thing as ordinary. Instead, the more you look at the “stuff” of the world, the more you find to think about, maybe even celebrate. The same is true of this poem: read closely and you see that the celebrating has a somber side, too.  (Hint: “beachheads” & “biers”)

Here’s the poem:


Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they’ve always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.

 The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara

If you want to read the column and try the writing challenge, go here. Right now! And the next time you think you have nothing to write about, take a Frank O’Hara and call me in the morning.

2 thoughts on “Frank O’Hara & the (Extra)Ordinary

  1. Of all the pictures in the A. Poulain anthology of Contemporary Poetry that took up residence in my undergrad mind, the picture of O’Hara is most unforgettable. Such a profile! We read other poets more closely than we did O’Hara, so I’m glad to be reminded of his work again. This is a lovely piece, your introduction to him here. I’ll definitely look at your challenge!

    1. I really didn’t read him closely until I taught a course on ekphrasis. His casual tone is sort of a red herring, I think. And not all the poems, of course, are fabulous (whose are?), but there’s a lot to love.

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