Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Pound, Ezra. Selected Prose 1909-1965, edited by William
Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973. Shreiber, Maeera, and Keith Tuma, eds. Mina Loy: Woman and
Poet. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1998.
LUNCH POEMS FRANK O'HARA (1964)
Frank o'hara's practice of dashing off poems anywhere, any place, any time, is the premise for Lunch Poems, his fifth book. The project was proposed by Lawrence fer-linghetti, whose City Lights Books published the collection once O'Hara finally prepared and submitted the manuscript (see poetry presses). The process took a number of years, since O'Hara was not particularly ambitious about publication; thus the 37 poems included in Lunch Poems sample more than a decade of work. Among these poems ostensibly composed during O'Hara's lunch hours are "the day lady died" and an untitled poem which, in typical O'Hara fashion, begins in response to some immediate event, in this case quoting a newspaper headline declaring, "Lana Turner has collapsed!"
Francis Hope dismisses Lunch Poems in a single paragraph by concluding, "there's not much reality in these sandwiches—only the puppyish charm of occasional good impromptus" (688). Hope condemns O'Hara's poems for not being scholarly and crafted by revision, the very things O'Hara and other new york school artists eschewed. In fact, O'Hara's technique was to use the impromptu, the spontaneous, and the common to create a charming intimacy. Raymond Roseliep employs stronger language in his assessment of these poems, complaining of the "wearisome cataloging of personalia" and "naughty-little-boy-sayings" (326) that offended him, things characteristic of American poetry after World War II and not just O'Hara's idiosyncratic province. The fundamentals of O'Hara's work elicit a more generous response from Gilbert Sorrentino, who notes the "grace and skill" with which O'Hara navigates a world that is "all fun and games, laughter, la dolce vita;
even the wretched and miserable segments of it are etched in a fine chiaroscuro of wit" (19). The "brisk and brilliant world" Sorrentino identifies is abundantly evident in Lunch Poems (19).
A prime example of this speed and clarity is the compressed progression through time and space in the 11-, five-, and six-line stanzas of "Mary Desti's Ass" (1961). The poem's diverse occasions take place all over North America, Asia, and Europe, involving specific dancers, composers, and poets, but most of all "you" and "I" are the players in these events. The speaker encounters a friend's mother who is recently returned from Turkey, passes judgment on assorted American cities, and includes unknowns among the noteworthy who participate in the whimsical serial. There are pleasant and unpleasant episodes in this poem, which help it maintain contact with the concrete reality of the average person's world, and the finest images in the piece articulate these opposites. While one experience is "like being pushed down hard / on a chair," elsewhere life is balanced by "love sneaking up . . . through the snow." It is this careful touch that saves Lunch Poems from being pedestrian and prosaic.
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