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

Why I Am Not A Painter

Rating: 3.6

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.

Jasbir Chatterjee 25 September 2013

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

6 11 Reply
Carlos Echeverria 25 September 2012

An abstract expressionist poem.

9 6 Reply
Liliana ~el 25 September 2013

Wow, this is awesome! ! ! ! :)

6 7 Reply
Kay Staley 25 September 2014

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.

6 4 Reply

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.

5 3 Reply
Chinedu Dike 05 December 2021

A masterful creation. A work of an intricate mind. Very powerfully crafted with deep insight.

1 0 Reply
?wen 09 July 2021

The poet and the painter want to evade the terrible life, je crois.

1 0 Reply
Jameson Welch 23 March 2021

I remember reading an interview in The Poetry Project Newsletter some time ago in the mid 90's and in it there was this short poem called 'Why I am not a poet', and it was riffing on this same poem by O'Hara. I wish i could remember who it was by..

0 0 Reply
James Forneris 30 October 2018

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

0 0 Reply
Jozef Neumann 16 August 2016

Yes. That's the way it is. It comes and goes.

2 0 Reply
Frank O'Hara

Frank O'Hara

Baltimore, Maryland
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