Raining, October




at my feet as I




                            pavement to buy a 





the store near my




                                                                  hurries past clutching a




     It is terrible weather





with a face like 


that. I am looking back searching for that 

Mother, clutching red, but she is gone. I am looking back across for her 

dark eyes — the sound of  

salvation — but all I see are soft neon signs glowing against 

a brushed brown sky.



For this exercise, I tried to mimic some of the features of the New York School, specifically that of Frank O’Hara. O’Hara’s “Walking,” for instance, utilizes form and spacing to mimic footsteps. I tried to emulate that here with the form by (attempting) to mimic raindrops hitting pavement for the first half of the poem and water runoff in the second half (although the formatting didn’t translate into the blog post from the original document as well as I hoped). I also found that O’Hara’s poems often read as stream of consciousness or, as Cary Nelson notes in the introduction to Frank O’Hara’s works, he “manages abrupt shifts of tone that mimic the erratic, associational paths of a consciousness stimulated by external events and images” (232). I am not sure I managed to capture quite that in this exercise, but I did draw on that stream of consciousness style. 

Another bit of O’Hara’s influence that made it into this exercise is his multiple references to neon and watches, which I thought was interesting. His poems “A Step Away From Them,” “To You,” and “Personal Poem,” for example, all feature references to either one or both. I think these work as stand ins for his fascination with painting and time, two themes which I noticed feature heavily in many of his poems. I tried to call on the same sense of temporal movement that features in many O’Hara poems (especially in “The Day Lady Died”) here with the fleeting sense of the speaker looking back for the woman but she is already gone.

I also tried to incorporate some of the “high and low cultural allusions,” as Cary calls it (232), in this exercise. John Ashbury, in “Soonest Mended,” does this as well in his reference to Roger Freeing Angelica, a painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Here, I was inspired by Paolo Veneziano’s Madonna of the Poppy. 

Madonna of the Poppy, Source: Wikimedia Commons

In this instance, by referencing certain aspects of the painting like the dark eyes of the Madonna, the baby’s distinct visage, and the red poppy, I tried to mimic the specific type of ekphrasis, what Brian Reed calls “homology, the attempt to coax language to approximate what visual artists can achieve in their own media choice” (847), that is often found in the New York School (and beyond).

 I felt that this exercise offered me a greater insight into the New York School and, perhaps more specifically, Frank O’Hara. While I appreciate the sentiments he lays out in Statements on Poetics, in that “poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all to concrete and circumstantial” (420), I found that it was very difficult to implement some of the notions he outlined in his “Personism: A Manifesto,” like the idea that one should “try to avoid being logical” (1073). It was much harder than I anticipated to pull back and mimic some of the same poetic styles I read this week. I am curious if anyone else who chose a creative imitation also struggled with this idea? Or, more broadly, if anyone wrestled with the often obscure or illogical elements to the poems?



Works Cited:

Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Edited by Cary Nelson, Vol. 2, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.

O’Hara, Frank. “Personism: A Manifesto,” pp. 1072-1074.

Statements on Poetics, contribution by Frank O’Hara, pp. 419-420.


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