LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

– Frank O’Hara, extract from Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!] 

Why I Am Not a Painter

– Frank O’Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
“You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

I wish I were reeling around Paris
instead of reeling around New York
I wish I weren’t reeling at all
it is Spring the ice has melted the Ricard is being poured
we are all happy and young and toothless
it is the same as old age
the only thing to do is simply continue
is that simple
yes, it is simple because it is the only thing to do
can you do it
yes, you can because it is the only thing to do

– Frank O’Hara, extract from Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul

I saw both of you
entwined by the wind
Moistened by the rough
tongue of desire
Your lactating breasts
together
Without breath
Like rose bushes drunk
on water’s delicacy
Like twins.
I saw both of you
lying down
On the hateful gold
of yellow flowers
Tearing apart your flesh
in furtive shadows
Skimming your
sleeping passions.
And like a tree
ashamed of its nudity
Alone, flat against
an evil sky,
I stood there like
a pitiful clown
with a ruffled heart.

– Joyce Mansour

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—-

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

– Sylvia Plath, extract from Lady Lazurus

You Will Hear Thunder

– Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.

It is as if I could dip my hand down

into time and scoop up
blue and green lozenges of April heat 
a year ago in another country.

I can feel that other day running underneath this one
like an old videotape – here we go fast around the last corner
up the hill to his house, shadows

of limes and roses blowing in the car window
and music spraying from the radio and him
singing and touching my left hand to his lips.

– Anne Carson, extract from The Glass Essay

I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life

– Frank O’Hara, extract from Meditations in an emergency