Friday, August 24, 2012


In an extraordinary poem Frank O’Hara describes his love for the poet Mayakovsky.  After an outburst of feeling, he writes,

but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

What he is telling us is something unbelievably painful.  Secreted in O’Hara’s thought is the possibility that we create only as dead men.  Who but the dead know what it is to be alive?  Death seems the only metaphor distant enough to truly measure our existence.
Frank understood this.  That is why these poems, so colloquial, so conversational, nevertheless seems to be reaching us from some other, infinitely distant place.  

Bad artists throughout history have always tried to make their art like life.  Only the artist who is close to his own life gives us an art that is like death.

From:  Give My Regards To Eighth Street – Collected Writings of Morton Feldman (edited by B.H. Friedman; afterword by Frank O’Hara), Cambridge, Exact Change, 2000

Morton Feldman: The Rothko Chapel, Part 1 (Link) 

Painting (oil w/sand):  Jim Dine,  Study For This Sovereign Life, 1985


  1. Hello Curtis,
    What a brilliant insight about one of the poets i adore most...Frank had a way and and a gentle swagger none of us will ever have but only know through his poetry..Thank you for sharing this..It would have been something to know him for real..

  2. I'm pleased this pleased you. Morton Feldman's book was on my shelf for several years before I read it. It's filled with all sorts of surprises, including this excerpt. It's utterly serious and utterly light throughout, which reminds me of Frank O'Hara's light touch handling deeply affecting subjects. Pennsylvania's extreme heat MUST be coming to an end soon. I'm heading to the movies! Curtis