Frank O'Hara

(27 March 1926 – 25 July 1966 / Baltimore, Maryland)

Why I Am Not A Painter - Poem by Frank O'Hara

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.


Comments about Why I Am Not A Painter by Frank O'Hara

  • Gold Star - 9,374 Points Frank Avon (9/26/2014 1:31:00 AM)

    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? (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Veteran Poet - 1,599 Points Kay Staley (9/25/2014 10:03:00 AM)

    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. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 293 Points Nancy Oyula (9/25/2014 7:08:00 AM)

    Nice. I played an imaginary background theme song as I read. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 21,056 Points Sandra Feldman (9/25/2014 4:50:00 AM)

    Perplexing but it shakes you up.
    I think this poem tries to express the different moments of creativity and how the creative spirit takes over regardless and in spite of the wishes of the creator.
    Different and interesting. Provokes a new poetic sensation (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 31,859 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (6/27/2014 11:30:00 PM)

    The poem I likes much due to its peculiar theme in sadness and expression of sadness and such things it is beautifully expressed in the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,382 Points Jasbir Chatterjee (9/25/2013 11:53:00 PM)

    paintings, poems, music....these are all forms of creative expression...this poem puts it so beautifully... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Shashikant Nishant Sharma '? ? ? ? ? ' (9/25/2013 9:19:00 PM)

    Wonderful poem and beautiful expression of feelings and emotions. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 866 Points Liliana ~el (9/25/2013 7:36:00 PM)

    Wow, this is awesome! ! ! ! :) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carlos Echeverria (9/25/2012 11:08:00 AM)

    An abstract expressionist poem. (Report) Reply

Read all 9 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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