One of the last books I picked up from work before everything closed down was The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara. It’s an interesting collection to pick up during a time of self isolation as unlike a lot of other poets I’ve read, these poems focus externally and observe the kind of social experiences that we’re restricted from right now. At times they read very much like diary entries from someone with a life much more thrilling than mine; being a large collection, some are more effective than others. Still, there is such a sense of joie-de-vivre in much of O’Hara work; I would consider the majority of them love poems, occasionally in a romantic sense but mostly dedications to friends, community, art, New York City. Part of me certainly feels lonely reading them, partially due to current isolation but perhaps more envy of the short but full, ecstatic life he led (and perhaps a wish I could have been one of his friends).
In a way, though, this is the perfect time to read his poetry- his sensuality and his ability to be fully present in the moment is something I need a little more of right now. There will come a time for concerns about the future, but in the moment, let me sit with this time; let me create, let me love the sun filtering through the window and the soft vinyl playing, let me luxuriate in the privilege of being alive.
As Frank says, “each day’s light has more significance these days”.
I’ll be posting more of my favourite poets during April in honour of “National Poetry Month”. Follow me to read more!
Stay safe, be kind,