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This month we celebrate the publication of a new Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1926-1966), edited by Mark Ford. O'Hara, one of the most influential and original writers of the postwar period, wrote poems that catch the rhythms and heartbreak of New York City, where he arrived in 1951, soon to become a key member of what is known as the New York School of poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler were other notable members). Not beholden to the older modern tradition of poets like T. S. Eliot, but not aligned with the Beats either, the group, with O'Hara its most insouciant spirit, created a movement in American poetry that only becomes more influential as the years pass. O'Hara, who believed poems should be as intimate as phone conversations, "disliked and distrusted theories of poetry," Ford tells us in his introduction, "but was in no way naive about his own procedures, which result, in his best work, in a style of writing that somehow manages to fuse immediacy with a glamorous hyper-sophistication and extreme self-consciousness." Today's selection is a poem O'Hara wrote in 1960.

Click here to print a downloadable broadside of O'Hara's classic poem "Having a Coke With You," and watch for podcasts of Knopf poets reading their favorite O'Hara poems, to come throughout the month.

Avenue A

We hardly ever see the moon any more
                                                          so no wonder
   it's so beautiful when we look up suddenly
and there it is gliding broken-faced over the bridges
brilliantly coursing, soft, and a cool wind fans
       your hair over your forehead and your memories
              of Red Grooms' locomotive landscape
I want some bourbon/you want some oranges/I love the leather
                jacket Norman gave me
                                                and the corduroy coat David
     gave you, it is more mysterious than spring, the El Greco
heavens breaking open and then reassembling like lions
                                                 in a vast tragic veldt
     that is far from our small selves and our temporally united
passions in the cathedral of Januaries

     everything is too comprehensible
these are my delicate and caressing poems
I suppose there will be more of those others to come, as in the past
                                                  so many!
but for now the moon is revealing itself like a pearl
                                                  to my equally naked heart



About Frank O'Hara


A collection of Frank O'Hara's manuscripts and letters is a part of the Berg Collection of The New York Public Library. To learn more about this important cultural institution, sign up for their free e-newsletter, The New York Public Library News: http://ga6.org/enypl/join.tcl?qp_source=knopf

Excerpt from FRANK O'HARA: SELECTED POEMS . Copyright © 2008 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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