Friday, June 3, 2016

Hot Flash Friday--unmade phone calls

Many of my blog readers know that I am a fan of the New York School of poets—which is not really a school at all but a collection of friends who inspired and collaborated with each other. It even spawned a second-generation of poets—who really weren’t a generation removed but only a few years younger. Trust me—these writers aren’t anything like you would expect!

Frank O’Hara said that many of his poems worked as unmade phone calls. This was back before social media. Anyway his poetry could be interpreted as missives to friends, ideas, thoughts he wanted to convey. They were often short, full of innuendo, and shorthand that only those within his circle might truly understand. Sometimes Kenneth Koch might start a poem and then mail it to O’Hara who might in turn after adding some lines send it off to John Ashbery. And so on.

Our idea is to do something with language
That has never been done before
Obviously—otherwise it wouldn’t be creation
We stick to it and now I am a little nostalgic
For our idea, we never speak of it any more, it’s been
Absorbed into our work, and even our friendship
Is an old, rather fragile-looking thing.
Maybe poetry took the life out of both of them,
Idea and friendship.
—Kenneth Koch, “Days and Nights”

Frank O’Hara wrote poetry almost every day of his adult life. He would pause wherever he was to write a poem off the top of his head. Some of his most famous poems were written while he was on his lunch break or out for a walk. His small book Lunch Poems appears to have been composed primarily during O’Hara’s lunch break from his job at the Museum of Modern Art.

“A Step Away From Them” begins, “It’s my lunch hour, so I go/for a walk among the hum-colored/cabs.” “Personal Poem” begins, “Now when I walk around at lunchtime/I have only two charms in my pocket.” In the poem he mentions several friends: Mike Kanemitsu, LeRoi Jones, Miles Davis, and several other writers. He also references street signs and other familiar points, jazz joints in NYC: “I walk through the luminous humidity passing the House of Seagram,” “get to Moriarty’s where I wait for LeRoi,” “last night outside of BIRDLAND.” Toward the end of the poem, O’Hara wonders: “if one person in 8,0000,000 is thinking of me . . .”

Right now write, pen an unmade phone call to someone, tell them what it is that you are thinking about, wish with all your heart to communicate. 

To learn more about flashing using some of my methods borrowed from the NY School--buy Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir where I go into great detail. Also available from Smashwords.

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