From Joan Acocella’s essay “Perfectly Frank”, about Frank O’Hara (a man I have always wished that I had known)- included in the compilation Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays:
In the doomed-poet drama that has been retrospectively read into O’Hara’s story, this poem [‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’] has been taken as a premonition of death. But to me the most remarkable thing about it is O’Hara’s sense of blessedness, an emotion that surfaces again and again in his verse. Indeed, it is one of the things (“gay, glancing”) held against him by those who feel that he was not a serious person. This, in turn, has led some of his defenders to overstress the sadness – presumably a warranty of seriousness – that can sometimes be detected in his poetry. The light tread of his lyrics, Geoff Ward says, “is only a step away from the grave.” It is true that O’Hara had the Irish sense of life, but the note of grief would be far less persuasive if it were not accompanied, as it almost always is, by the keenest possible responsiveness to life’s goodness. Even at his most depressed, when his romance with Vincent Warren is falling apart, O’Hara is witty. (“I walk in / sit down and / face the frigidaire” – presumably Vincent.) When, on the other hand, that relationship is going well, even bad things seem good to him: “Even the stabbings are helping the population explosion.”
Boyfriends aside, he finds a thousand things to like. Ballet dancers fly through his verse. Taxi drivers tell him funny things. Zinka Milanov sings, the fountains splash. The city honks at him and he honks back. This willingness to be happy is one of the things for which O’Hara is most loved, and rightly so. It is a fundamental aspect of his moral life, and the motor of his poetry.
Here a couple of posts by my friend Ted about O’Hara, one of my favorite poets: