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Richard Samuel Reads his Favorite Poem by Frank O’Hara

A glassblower from Seattle reads a poem by Frank O'Hara in this continuing series from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

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  • RICHARD SAMUEL, Glassblower:

    I first encountered this poem in college in a poetry appreciation class, and the Frank O'Hara poems that were in the book impressed me more than most of the others.

    And I liked this particular poem because it seemed to express a feeling of anxiety and the hurriedness of everyday life in the city, and seemed to be the first thing I had read that talked a good deal about the tabloidization of our culture and how life was getting away from our control and things of little importance were gaining more and more importance.

    I think that in college most people feel their life is a little bit out of control, and the voice in this poem is someone who is very definitely out of control, at least early on in it. I think that probably held some appeal for me.

    There's a lot of poetry that talks about how stable and wonderful life is, and the flowers are blooming, and this poem is from the opposite end of that spectrum. And I think that appealed to me as a college student facing the future, and not sure whether I was going to be racing like this poet or going into the garden, as it were.

    "Poem," by Frank O'Hara:

    Lana Turner has collapsed!I was trotting along and suddenlyit started raining and snowingand you said it was hailingbut hailing hits you on the headhard so it was really snowing andraining and I was in such a hurryto meet you but the trafficwas acting exactly like the skyand suddenly I see a headlineLANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!there is no snow in Hollywoodthere is no rain in CaliforniaI have been to lots of partiesand acted perfectly disgracefulbut I never actually collapsedoh Lana Turner we love you get up

    And I love this poem because it almost directs itself. It pretty much demands that you read the first part quickly. The man is racing down the street, and suddenly he's stopped dead in his tracks by probably the biggest event, but an event of little consequence.

    And then he starts thinking, "well, where's the consequence?" And he starts thinking, "well, it's California, it's Hollywood, it's show business." And the last thing anybody in that profession wants to do is collapse. It's embarrassing. It's going to make headlines. So he stands there and he says, "Lana, get up. You're making us all look bad."