Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More stuff on Frank

I found a copy of A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island, when I was browsing for Ginsberg links yesterday. O’Hara sets out a conversation with the rising sun, and uses his trademark candour to keep levity doing it’s job.

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying "Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don't be so rude, you are
only the second poet I've ever chosen
to speak to personally
so why
aren't you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day."
"Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal."

Isn't that so casual, and yet so effective? I love O'Hara!
He doesn’t let the poem get too serious until near the end when the sun leaves:
 "No, go I must, they're calling
me."
"Who are they?"
Rising he said "Some
day you'll know. They're calling to you
too." Darkly he rose, and then I slept.


On investigation I discovered that O’Hara’s poem reinterprets a poem by Russian poet, Mayakovsky, who had a similar method of using comic diffusion and gravity. Mayakovsky belongs to the earlier era around the 1910's in Russia, part of the futurist movement in Russia. I was reminded of the beginning of our 20th C lit course, where we covered Chekhov, and all the discussion of diagnosis and letting seemingly insignifcant details do the work.

Mayakovsky's poem is called An Extraordinary Adventure
What is interesing about this poem is the challenge of the narrator to the sun:

I yelled to the sun:
"Hey, wait there!
Listen, golden brightbrow,
instead of vainly
setting in the air,
have tea with me
right now!"

So the sun agrees to come down – but my favourite bit is here:

"I've withheld my fires you see
the first time since creation began.
You've invited me?
So lay out the tea,
and, poet, lay on the jam!"

Mayakovsky’s ending is slightly more hopeful, without the seeping darkness that O’Hara’s turn has:

Shine all the time,
for ever shine.
the last days' depths to plumb,
to shine - !
spite every hell combined!
So runs my slogan -
and the sun's!

Brilliant to find one thing leading into another like this. I especially like the poet laying on the jam (I hope something didn’t get lost in translation!). It just goes to show that there really isn’t anything new under the old sun.

2 comments:

chiefbiscuit said...

Thanks for sharing these poems and comments - i haven't come across either poem before I don't think ... maybe O'Hara's ... I loved reading both of them. I like that casual tightness.

Cailleach said...

You're welcome CB. A lot of these writers I've been studying this year are a complete revelation.

Writing the assignments is the pain, though. In writing them, you achieve a much deeper knowledge of the pieces that you pick, because you have to go through them so finely... so every pain has it's purpose :¬)
(A little like childbirth, some might say)