(Image: a collaboration of Frank O'Hara and Franz Klein from 21 Etchings and Poems, with O'Hara's
Poem (To Franz Kline):
I will always love you though I never loved you
a boy smelling faintly of heather staring up at your window
the passion that enlightens and stills and cultivates, gone
while I sought your face to be familiar in the blueness
or to follow your sharp whistle around a corner into my light
that was love growing fainter each time you failed to appear
I spent my whole self searching love which I thought was you
it was mine so briefly and I never knew it, or you went
I thought it was outside disappearing but it is disappearing in my heart
like snow blown in a window to be gone from the world
At first glance, it may seem difficult to separate Frank O’Hara from the painters and poets who comprised the influential New York School. Art was one of his great passions, and the synchronicity between O’Hara and the abstract expressionists is clear in his poetry. He put words upon paper in the same seemingly carefree, yet distinctly deliberate fashion as Franz Klein placed brush strokes on canvas, evoking unfiltered emotion from the abstract.
The subversion of common conceptions of art and beauty was common between O’Hara and the artists of the New York School. In the same way that Klein’s intense monochrome lines defy convention and capture the physicality of painting, O’Hara’s poetry captures the movement of New York, acting as hymns to the city’s outsiders and degenerates. The fundamental longing for love and acceptance found in his poetry goes beyond the direct implications of O’Hara’s own societal status as a gay man. Rather, he directly grapples with the most common human desires. Much like the paintings of his abstract expressionist peers, O’Hara constructs his poetry around intrinsic emotions, promising a reaction from the reader despite his unconventional form.