John Ashbery, from Late Echo.
The abandonment by love is a de facto sign Of something else coming along, Something similar in its measuredness: Sweetness of things late, a memory for particulars As lively as though they happened still. As indeed They do sometimes, though like the transparent bricks In a particular dream, they cannot always be seen.
John Ashbery, Forgotten Sex
40-year-old Frank O’Hara was struck by a jeep on Fire Island in the early morning hours of 24 July 1966 (O’Hara was with a group of about a dozen people waiting for a beach taxi to fix a flat tire, and O’Hara had stepped away from the crowd before he was struck head-on by the jeep). O’Hara was taken (by taxi, then police boat, then ambulance) to the hospital, where it was thought that he had suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries (contusions, gashes, shock, and a badly smashed left leg).
While O’Hara initially seemed to improve (he even spoke with visiting friends, including Willem de Kooning and Larry Rivers), he died the next day of a ruptured liver.
John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Allen Ginsberg, Larry Rivers, and others eulogized O’Hara at his burial on 27 July 1966.
“There are at least 60 people in New York who thought Frank O’Hara was their best friend,” Rivers said in his eulogy. And Bill Berkson captured his personality and his craft: “Frank was the most graceful, quick, courageous, sometimes terrifying intelligence. Often, no matter how intimate or involved you might be, you could only begin to imagine what and how much he was feeling. It was electric, full of light and air and blood, amazing, passionate, and full of sense. As a poet, a genius, just walking around, talking, he had that magic touch: He made things and people sacred…”
“A poem grabs us with only a voice, often the voice of a stranger, telling us very little about itself. Poems needn’t tell a story, and their relationship to linear cause and effect is at best blasé. Instead we get the testimony of the senses, the power of words in new and arresting combinations, and an unwavering belief in what Keats called the “holiness of the heart’s affections.” I am so grateful to the vivid individuals I met on the page this year, proof of hope and life in a very crushing time.” —Dan Chiasson. Read more about the year in poetry, here.
John Ashbery, The Improvement