Monday, January 23, 2006

Listening to Poetry

My Bookman and I had a pleasant evening yesterday working on a jigsaw puzzle and listening to the Frank O'Hara CD from the Voice of the Poet series. I don't ever recall reading any O'Hara and I don't know how I managed to miss him. This guy is great! Plus he does not use The Poet Voice when he reads. I wish there was an indication about where some of these poems were recorded. In some of them you can hear car horns in the background. In others it sounds like he is standing next to a fish aquarium. In some he could be standing in a kitchen while someone is washing dishes in the sink. And in a few it sounds like he could be reading to those patronizing a bathroom. But no matter where it sounded like he was reading, he read well. This was one enjoyable CD. I thought I'd give you a few samples of my favorites. This first is called "Poem" as many of his poems seem to have been titled, and was written in 1960:

Some days I feel that I exude a fine dust like that attributed to Pylades in the famous Chronica nera areopagitica when it was found and it's because an excavationist has reached the inner chamber of my heart and rustled the paper bearing your name I don't like that stranger sneezing over our love
He has a great sense of humor which comes out in single lines like the above or in this one, also called "Poem" and written in 1962:
Lana Turner has collapsed! I was trotting along and suddenly it started raining and snowing and you said it was hailing but hailing hits you on the head hard so it was really snowing and raining and I was in such a hurry to meet you but the traffic was acting exactly like the sky and suddenly I see a headline LANA TURNER HAD 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
But it's not all fun and games. He's got several poems that took my breath away, most notably "Ave Maria" and "Ode to Joy." Both of these are too long to excerpt here, but you can listen to "Ode to Joy" at Random House here. O'Hara died at the age of 40 after being hit by a speeding dune buggy at 3 am when he was walking home from a party on Fire Island. The irony of this is that a month before at a party he and friends were talking about what they were most afraid of and he said "living past 40." At that point he had just turned 40 and a month later he was dead. Be careful what you wish for.