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

  • James Forneris (10/30/2018 6:44:00 AM)

    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 (Report)Reply

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  • Jozef NeumannJozef Neumann (8/16/2016 8:29:00 AM)

    Yes. That's the way it is. It comes and goes. (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • 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?

    3 person liked.
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  • 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

    4 person liked.
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  • Nancy OyulaNancy Oyula (9/25/2014 7:08:00 AM)

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

    2 person liked.
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  • 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

    3 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • 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

    4 person liked.
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  • Jasbir ChatterjeeJasbir 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

    5 person liked.
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  • Shashikant Nishant SharmaShashikant Nishant Sharma (9/25/2013 9:19:00 PM)

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

    6 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Liliana ~el (9/25/2013 7:36:00 PM)

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

    6 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • Carlos Echeverria (9/25/2012 11:08:00 AM)

    An abstract expressionist poem. (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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