Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara

Book Review by Jim Troeltsch | 02 Sep 2014
  • Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara
Book title: Lunch Poems
Author: Frank O'Hara

Hard to believe half a century’s passed since the publication of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems – so named because most of the book was written following the poet’s lunch-hour walks around midtown Manhattan – because its voice is in almost every way contemporary: worldly, ironic, sceptical, occasionally flip; but also sad, in a way that’s complex and under-the-surface and which maybe has something to do with the loss of transcendent belief.

But like too many of our own generation’s most talented writers, O’Hara lets himself float along on irony’s tide a little too often. When he swims against the current, though, there’s an awkwardly beautiful human struggle going on, a coming-to-terms with life and its conflicts that’s wholly at odds with his reputation as a gossipy dilettante concerned only with the frivolities of his insular New York art-world milieu.

For the 50th anniversary edition, City Lights have included a short preface by John Ashbery and a generous sample of the correspondence between O’Hara and the book’s editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Out now, published by City Lights, RRP £5.99