Essay on Poetry and O’hara

Submitted By NotANutritionMajor
Words: 786
Pages: 4

Many believe that a manifesto is supposed to be this classy and intellectual statement, in fact it’s defined as, “a public declaration of policy and aims,” policy and aims…seems classy to me. Frank O’Hara was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. He spent most of his writing years in Manhattan, the art hub of America. Loved by most, a fellow poet once critiqued O’Hara saying his poems “can’t be got at on reading because [O’Hara] was confused too,” (247). This sparked O’Hara to write Personism: A Manifesto, a manifesto so different from any other that you sometimes forget it’s a piece of writing, not a speech. Right off the bat, O’Hara dives into what his writing, and so all writing, should be like. “I don’t believe in god, so I don’t have to make elaborately sounded structures…I don’t even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve,” (247) referring here to the mechanics of writing poems, his point being that instead of trying to hide the message in these elaborate and often confusing poem structures so that a reader must search to find it. He goes on to comment on the content of poems, “They’re just ideas…how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them,” (247) meaning that what others get from your work doesn’t matter, even if they get nothing from it, because it’s not about the interpretation or the “lofty ideas” behind it, it’s just about the poem, about writing it, about putting the words down. He also comments on “measure and other technical apparatus,” saying that it’s more common sense than anyone is willing to admit, “if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it,” (247) his lack of loftiness or metaphysics here a fine example of what he’s saying. O’Hara then goes on to talk about abstraction. Abstraction being the degree to which an idea or concept is abstract, the less real or concrete, the more abstract, “abstraction (in poetry, not painting) involves personal removal by the poet,” (247). For O’Hara, abstraction is most noticeable in the minute particulars; that is the effect of changing a single word in a line that measures its degree of abstraction. Such as that of, “the decision involved in the choice between ‘the nostalgia of the infinite’ and ‘the nostalgia for the infinite’…the nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degree of abstraction, removal, and negative capability,” (247). Abstraction in minute particulars is the exact thing O’Hara is against and a non-point in his personal movement of Personism which he describes as, “being so totally opposed to this kind of abstract removal,” (248). Personism, O’Hara’s pure art movement founded after lunch one day, is the idea that a poem should act as a telephone between two people,…