Why I Am Not A Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

by Frank O'Hara

Comments (11)

Decades ago I came across this poem - and today I thought of it againThe wordsentered my life and decades ago I was a painter not a poet and these words have stuck with me since the 1970-80s Great poem thank you
Yes. That's the way it is. It comes and goes.
This poem illustrates how Frank O'Hara has a major place in a line of American poetry: free verse = Walt Whitman, Wm Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsburg, Frank O'Hara, Charles Bukowski. These poets reject traditional poetic forms as often being artificial. They also have stood out against Modernism (and much postmodernism) as being academic, elitist, and inaccessible to literate readers. This is not one of my favorite O'Hara poems, but it is one of the most often anthologized. And, by the way, Elias and Patrick, O'Hara's sexual orientation and relationships are irrelevant to this poem - though this is not always the case. So?
i really dont understand this at all, but I like the name. I have wondered why I am not a painter...being a writer instead, i never found the answer nor understood why i chose to let myself and my feelings out through words instead of a brush. Interesting thought but i seriously dont like the poem at all.
Nice. I played an imaginary background theme song as I read.
See More