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Meditations in an Emergency [Paperback]

Frank O'Hara
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 1996
Frank O'Hara was one of the great poets of the twentieth century and, along with such widely acclaimed writers as Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry, "which, by its vitality alone, became the dominant force in the American poetic tradition."

Frank O'Hara was born in Baltimore in 1926 and grew up in New England; from 1951 he lived and worked in New York, both for Art News and for the Museum of Modern Art, where he was an associate curator. O'Hara's untimely death in 1966 at the age of forty was, in the words of fellow poet John Ashbery, "the biggest secret loss to American poetry since John Wheelwright was killed." This collection is a reissue of a volume first published by Grove Press in 1957, and it demonstrates beautifully the flawless rhythm underlying O'Hara's conviction that to write poetry, indeed to live, "youjust go on your nerve."

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"O'Hara, a key interpreter of the aesthetics of abstract-expressionism, was a vital presence in New York's dynamic postwar art world, whether as a curator at the Museum of Modem Art, a visionary critic, a lushly original and lyrical poet, or an unflagging, often outrageous socialite." --Donna Seaman, "Booklist""Moving in the way that only simple communication can be moving. . . . His poems always manage a fresh start, free from the dreadful posturings of the conventional verse of his generation." --Kenneth Rexroth, "The New York Times Book Review"

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as interesting as I'd hoped June 4 2012
By dranken
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's my own fault. I purchased this book after watching Mad Men, and expected an insightful read concerning art and culture. Not a bad read, but not what I wanted.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
220 of 239 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Mad Men Sept. 9 2009
By Brenda Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you wondered what Don Draper was reading and why he got that far away look in his eye then your curiosity is much like mine. I had to know. Meditations In An Emergency is that book. Frank O'Hara was the voice that spoke to the madness, the chaos, and the contradictions in the cultural transition between 50's and 60's America. He was one of the best poets of the twentieth century and along with writers like Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry.
O'Hara's poetry is vital, raw, gritty, and extremely moving.

And Don Draper is thinking:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the castastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It's my duty to be attentive." Dec 7 2011
By Michael J. Ettner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY contains 30 poems, short to medium in length. Thirteen are one-pagers, twelve are two pages, five are three.

Some of the poems are opaque. An exuberant talker, O'Hara on occasion launches into an erudition spill, and if the subject he chooses is of limited interest the resulting poem may not speak to many readers, especially those of us not thoroughly tutored in his ways and means.

Yet I think I am like most of his readers who forgive him this, knowing that with the next poem he will return to his naturally communicative, pleasure-giving mode.

What the American poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth once noted about O'Hara is right on the money: Each of the poems has the air of a "fresh start." When encountering the best of them it is as if your eyes, long occluded, open suddenly onto the world.

This being O'Hara, there are newly-coined and revived words and phrases (cupiditously; buttered bees); thoughts of suicide, express and implied; premonitions of violence; paeans to pop culture icons ("For James Dean"); a campy fandom of Hollywood ("To the Film Industry in Crisis"); tossed off witticisms ("It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so"); a devotion to New York ("I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life"); and, finally, intimate love poems that draw us near.

He has an original voice, and yet I enjoy the occasions when he sounds as other poets, like Ginsberg or the Romantics, or even Shakespeare, who I swear I hear in the poem "Radio." It begins, "Why do you play such dreary music / on Saturday afternoon, when tired / mortally tired I long for a little / reminder of immortal energy?" This shares the questioning voice found in Shakespeare's sonnets (the constant Why? Who? What?) as well Shakespeare's expression of mock petulance -- disappointment turning into complaint turning into self-pity -- such as in Sonnet 34: "Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day / And make me travel forth without my cloak / To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way?"

For some reason I like to read O'Hara's poetry while standing, or walking around a room.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explicit Rex Jan. 9 2011
By T. Boyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most people who are stumbling across this book will find it because it was featured in Mad Men, with one of it's poems, "Mayakovsky", partially recited by the main character. Seeing that episode after the fact, the poem does ring true for Don Draper, except that Mayakovsky eventually killed himself.

But there is so much more to Meditations in an Emergency that that poem alone. There are a dozen gems in the work, many which surpass Mayakovsky in my opinion. O'Hara is an interesting, philosophical read that will cause you to look deeper at life and self. A work for the ages.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic March 8 2014
By Ryan L - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Honestly speaking, I bought this only because it was recommended by Don Draper. I'm still trying to understand some of these poems, and I think I'm getting there.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Feb. 9 2014
By Agustin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For those that are not experts in poetry is a great book, easy to read but extraordinary, I fully recommend it.
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