2nd ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: DAY 26 :: JASON GRABOWSKI on FRANK O'HARA
IT IS GOOD TO BE SEVERAL FLOORS UP IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
WONDERING WHETHER YOU ARE ANY GOOD OR NOT
AND THE ONLY DECISION YOU CAN MAKE IS THAT YOU DID IT
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
(“Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul”)
For some reason I bought Lunch Poems… maybe because of the line that I liked from Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, “Grace to be born and live as variously as possible,” Frank O’Hara‘s famous line which was also written on my friend J Morris’s bathroom wall – that I’d look at every day when I was staying in San Francisco, way back when. Not too long after, back in New York before my lunch break, I was loading up the car for an artist I worked for; he pulled Lunch Poems out of my back pocket.. and flipped out! He couldn’t believe that someone from my generation had even heard of him. I took it as a nod. A few years later my friend Russell Dillon and I, who also loves O’Hara, drove out to Montauk for the day and on the way back, we stopped by O’Hara’s grave at Green River to pay our respects; his famous words.. . written on his head stone. A few years ago, when I was crawling back to my past – trying to piece together the last few credits of my degree – I found myself in an empty library, in the poetry section back with Frank. Found Meditations in an Emergency (one of the best titles ever in Poetry). A year later, I found him hanging out in De Kooning’s biography. He mostly hung out with painters and loved to look at art (there’s that poem “Oranges”); I sort of do the opposite / something kindred between us.
He went from coat check boy to curator at the Museum of Modern Art. His emphasis on LIFE being the source of poetry and art, which was obvious in the way he lived and also came through clearly in his writing. His casual grace – like in For the Chinese New Year & for Bill Berkson, goes on and on, setting you up/ hearing you and everything out / and then STRIKES! – “no there is no precedent of history no history nobody came before / nobody will ever come before and nobody ever was that man // you will not die not knowing this is true this year “. That poem in particular, I feel unlocks one of the most important messages about life I’ve ever come across. I listened to a recording of it once, while at work, for two hours or so. Recently, after a reading.. . I brought my friend Cedar to O’Hara’s – a fireman’s bar on Cedar Street.. a few doors down from the original Cedar Street Tavern, which later moved to it’s infamous location / seemed like the only place to be that night.. in honor of everything. There’s so many great poets who put it down and went … . but Frank’s my man.. sort of a boxer in sprit / Love him.