Why I Am Not a Painter
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.
Both Frank O'Hara and I left Massachusetts for New York. But beyond that, the comparisons gets thin. I was never in the Navy, and I have never been to Fire Island. He died there in 1966 as the result of a bizarre accident, at the age of forty.
"Anchovies Too" by L Thompson
Visit the Smithsonian site to see "Sardines":
Poem credit: Frank O’Hara, “Why I Am Not a Painter” from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Mauren Granville-Smith, Administratrix of the Estate of Frank O'Hara. Used by the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc, www.randomhouse.com/category/poetry/.