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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I Am Not a Painter

(Sardines by Michael Goldberg, 1924-2007,
American Expressionist painter)

Frank O’Hara was a “poet among painters,” surrounded by a large circle of New York artists. In addition to his work as a poet, he was an art critic and essayist and curator of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art.

While O’Hara may not have been a painter in oils, the poem below shows that he had the skill and technique to create an Expressionist image in words.


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
up. “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.

~ Frank O’Hara (1926-1966), American poet

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