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Lunch Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets Series) Paperback – January 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Out to Lunch: Frank O'Hara's Masterwork Turns 50:"
"We all know lunch hour isn't actually for eating lunch; it's for running to the bank, going shopping, or throwing back a few midday business shots. In the case of Frank O'Hara, it was for poetry, and his might have been the best use of those precious 60 minutes in the whole dreary history of the corporate custom."--Heather Baysa, The Village Voice

"Frank O’Hara’s delightful conversational volume Lunch Poems was published by City Lights in San Francisco fifty years ago, and has remained in print in its original Pocket Poets format ever since. In an anniversary hardback edition, Lawrence Ferlinghetti writes that the poems 'established a certain tone, a certain turn of phrase, a certain urbane wit, at once gay and straight, that came to identify the New York School of poets in the 1960s.'"--James Campbell, Times Literary Supplement UK

"O’Hara's mystique, and the seductive power of his work, have lingered, and in recent years have grown even stronger. What distinguishes O'Hara's poetry? It is not just a remarkable grasp of the zeitgeist but the way his poems manage to feel contemporary, no matter what the year, the ways in which he broke new ground."--Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

"Don't miss out. With your fave libation in hand, celebrate Lunch Poems--the little book that's still the life of the party."--Kathi Wolfe, The Washington Blade

"Although scholars have discussed and quoted from the correspondence between O’Hara and Ferlinghetti about the publication of Lunch Poems before, this is the first time the letters have been published, so it's a real treat to see them in print."--Andrew Epstein, Associate Professor, English Dept, Florida State University

"'My life held precariously in the seeing / hands of others.' Fifty years since its now-iconic orange and blue cover re-entered the bustling, amorous New York City from which they were derived, City Lights has reissued the collection with a new introduction and a supplementary appendix with facsimile drafts, letters, and other wonders."--Staff at WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

"Nearly 50 years since his death, much American lyrical poetry today also seems timid by comparison, suggestive of pious poets in ascetic isolation from a vulgar, fallen world. . . . What is happening to him now is that his influence on both contemporary American poetry and on pop culture is greater than ever. . . . Lunch Poems has just been republished by City Lights Books in an expanded edition that includes a preface by O’Hara’s New York compatriot John Ashbery and an appendix filled with facsimiles of correspondence spanning 1963 to 1965 between O’Hara and the book’s publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti."--Tim Keane, The Brooklyn Rail

"In the 1950s people like me noticed O'Hara because his subjects were often the subjects we would have chosen if we had been poets--jazz, movie stars, abstract expressionist painting, race, the intensity of urban life. Music, art and their attached legends energized his lines. The poems were crafted with care but always seemed spontaneous, as if scrawled in his notebooks during parties, meetings, trips on the subway. They were always personal, city life woven into a rueful version of himself. To like him it was necessary to like irony."--Robert Fulford, National Post

"The expanded 50th anniversary edition of Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara is a glorious tribute to the book, as well as to the genius of the poet himself. Poet John Ashbery wrote the preface, and publisher/poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti writes about the anniversary edition. If you haven't read this essential volume of poetry, including the amazing poem 'Ave Maria,' you don't know what you're missing."--Gregg Shapiro, Bay Area Reporter


--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Frank O'Hara was born on March 27, 1926 in Baltimore and grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts. He was a leader of the "New York School" of poets, a group that included John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. He died on July 25, 1966, struck by a dune buggy on the Fire Island beach.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: City Lights Pocket Poets Series
  • Paperback: 76 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers; 1st edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872860353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872860353
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The perfect introduction to the poetry of O'Hara, "Lunch Poems" is a celebration of life in New York City with art, poetry, music, friends, and of course, the movies. This book contains 'Ave Maria' with the marvelous opening lines:
Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images...
I wish I could remember what generous soul suggested that I read this little book of poems in college, but my expression of gratitude remains unfulfilled. From "Lunch Poems" I tackled the collected poems and never looked back, eventually writing my senior year thesis on O'Hara and film. This little volume, however, retains a special place in my book collection since it was my first O'Hara and my first poetry book. My copy is worn from many trips on trains and airplanes - the perfect antidote to the mind-numbing experience we call travel. To paraphrase the last line of 'A Step Away From Them':
My heart is in my pocket, it is Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara.
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Format: Paperback
I'm only writing the obvious here because I couldn't believe people were giving this book only four stars when they give all kinds of mediocre books five. This book contains the best poem of mid-20th century America--"The Day Lady Died"--and is a quintessential example of New York School poetics. Terrific, fun, funny, exciting, moving poetry.
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Format: Paperback
The best collection of poetry written after World War II that I am aware of, "Lunch Poems" brings together the high culture and low culture. O'Hara was known for hanging out with the '50s elite of celebrity and progresive painters, musicians, and actors. Yet he also had an affinity for walking the streets of New York alone at lunchtime or evening, befriending vagrants, observing day to day work and the diversity of metropolitan life. His poems are witty, profound, insightful, original, inspiring, and always unsettling the reader with his unusual observations about life. O'Hara is incredibly literate and knows his poetic heritage, but through "Lunch Poems" he remains intenseley aware of his present and the importance of what goes on around him. Between musings on Charles Baudelaire, Billie Holiday, Arthur Rimbaud, and Miles Davis, one gets the sense of a rootless, absorbing man in love with New York City, art, poetry, daily life, and transcendent experience.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Frank O'Hara's reputation seems caught in a holding period, an awkward stage preliminary to his work becoming universal and timeless.

Consider, for example, the final scene in the opening episode of the second season of "Mad Men," the cable TV series set in the world of advertising as practiced in New York in the early 1960s. We see the show's protagonist, Don Draper, picking up a slim volume of O'Hara's poems ("Meditations in an Emergency," 1957). He recites the final lines from "Mayakovsky." There is an ambivalence to the scene. Was the O'Hara poem chosen for its intrinsic merit, or was the O'Hara name used as an easy marker for the zeitgeist (the same way the show's producers highlight the period-specific cut of Draper's suit and hair and attitudes)? With friends like these, when will O'Hara escape his confinement to the mannerist ghetto of the "New York School"?

And so some readers may pick up "Lunch Poems" (first published in 1964) after seeing it praised as an emblematic cultural document of mid-twentieth century America. Yet even if the time-bound aura of O'Hara is the come-on, what makes you stay enthralled is his voice -- a "thinking" voice as vitally American as Whitman or Frost.

There are 37 poems in "Lunch Poems" and their quality as well as their accessibility varies. The poems span a period from 1953 to 1964. This book is not a "best of" O'Hara collection, yet it does contain what may be his most durable poem.

A few of these short pieces are so recondite that they lose me. In a few others O'Hara raises an opaque scrim to suggest beauty beckoning from the other side, and these poems begin to "click" only after multiple readings. But the majority of the poems are freshly-minted coins granting immediate access to a lively, urbane worldview.
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Leonard Lopate, a regular on the public radio station WNYC, was inspired by the BBC series and associated book A History of the World in 100 Objects. He asked listenders to vote for the 10 objects that best tell New York's story --- from its first days to 2012.

Item number 6, just behind the 18th century ship excavated from the WTC site in 2010 and just ahead of the Brooklyn Bridge, was Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. I was very surprised, frankly; I had heard and actually seen all of the other items on the list, but this small collection was totally new to me.

The Associate Producer of the show, Steven Valentino, was also surprised. "It was slightly surprising that Frank O'Hara's 1964 collection Lunch Poems came in at number six on our list, but it turns out to be a very good way of looking at New York City. As NYU professor Lytle Shaw, author of the book Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie explains: 'Lunch Poems is a condensed and highly accessible book that is smaller than a subway map.' That feature makes it easy to take the book anywhere. Shaw described it as having the potential to 'acclimatize you to the things New York has to offer.'"

Well, the listeners have a point; there is much about New York in this wonderful collection, but frankly I came for the guidance, but stayed for the beauty.
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