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Meditations in an Emergency Paperback – April 1, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“O’Hara, a key interpreter of the aesthetics of abstract-expressionism, was a vital presence in New York’s dynamic postwar art world, whether as a curator at the Museum of Modem Art, a visionary critic, a lushly original and lyrical poet, or an unflagging, often outrageous socialite.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Moving in the way that only simple communication can be moving. . . . His poems always manage a fresh start, free from the dreadful posturings of the conventional verse of his generation.” —Kenneth Rexroth, The New York Times Book Review

From the Back Cover

This collection is a reissue of a volume first published by Grove Press in 1957, and it demonstrates beautifully the flawless rhythm underlying O'Hara's conviction that to write poetry, indeed to live, 'you just go on your nerve.'
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 52 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134523
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brenda Thompson on September 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you wondered what Don Draper was reading and why he got that far away look in his eye then your curiosity is much like mine. I had to know. Meditations In An Emergency is that book. Frank O'Hara was the voice that spoke to the madness, the chaos, and the contradictions in the cultural transition between 50's and 60's America. He was one of the best poets of the twentieth century and along with writers like Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry.
O'Hara's poetry is vital, raw, gritty, and extremely moving.

And Don Draper is thinking:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the castastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY contains 30 poems, short to medium in length. Thirteen are one-pagers, twelve are two pages, five are three.

Some of the poems are opaque. An exuberant talker, O'Hara on occasion launches into an erudition spill, and if the subject he chooses is of limited interest the resulting poem may not speak to many readers, especially those of us not thoroughly tutored in his ways and means.

Yet I think I am like most of his readers who forgive him this, knowing that with the next poem he will return to his naturally communicative, pleasure-giving mode.

What the American poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth once noted about O'Hara is right on the money: Each of the poems has the air of a "fresh start." When encountering the best of them it is as if your eyes, long occluded, open suddenly onto the world.

This being O'Hara, there are newly-coined and revived words and phrases (cupiditously; buttered bees); thoughts of suicide, express and implied; premonitions of violence; paeans to pop culture icons ("For James Dean"); a campy fandom of Hollywood ("To the Film Industry in Crisis"); tossed off witticisms ("It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so"); a devotion to New York ("I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life"); and, finally, intimate love poems that draw us near.

He has an original voice, and yet I enjoy the occasions when he sounds as other poets, like Ginsberg or the Romantics, or even Shakespeare, who I swear I hear in the poem "Radio." It begins, "Why do you play such dreary music / on Saturday afternoon, when tired / mortally tired I long for a little / reminder of immortal energy?
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Most people who are stumbling across this book will find it because it was featured in Mad Men, with one of it's poems, "Mayakovsky", partially recited by the main character. Seeing that episode after the fact, the poem does ring true for Don Draper, except that Mayakovsky eventually killed himself.

But there is so much more to Meditations in an Emergency that that poem alone. There are a dozen gems in the work, many which surpass Mayakovsky in my opinion. O'Hara is an interesting, philosophical read that will cause you to look deeper at life and self. A work for the ages.
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Another reviewer mentioned that too often the works herein seem like inside jokes. Totally agree. I cannot seem to connect with these poems. It could be my relatively young age, but unlikely since I click with other beat writers. Also, Mr. O'hara's later collection, Lunch Poems is great and seemingly more accessible.

Although, I am certainly missing a ton of references. Unless you lived then, and were very tuned in, or you study the subject to death, I don't see how much of O'Hara's works can be extremely relevant to today's reader.

O'Hara is a whimsical writer, but reading this collection is heavy exercise. I suppose these observations make me shallow. What do you think Amazoners?
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I bought this because it was featured in a "Mad Men" episode and it made me curious. I'm not a literature professor, but I found the "poems" to be laughable in their content, composition, and quality. Any given one gave me the impression that the author had devoted 3-5 minutes on each one. Imagine waking up in the morning after a real bender, your head is pounding, and someone hands you a pen and paper and tells you, "Here, write a poem before you get up to pee. You have three minutes." There you have it. I am dumbfounded this O'Hara ever found a publisher. Ah, art....
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Format: Paperback
MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY contains 30 poems, short to medium in length. Thirteen take up just one-page each, twelve occupy two pages, five form three.

Some of the poems are opaque. An exuberant talker in life, on the page O'Hara sometimes launches into a spill of erudition, and if the subject he chooses is of limited interest the resulting poem may not speak to many readers, especially those of us not thoroughly tutored in his ways and means.

Yet I think I am like most of his readers who forgive him this, knowing that with the next poem he will return to his naturally communicative, pleasure-giving mode.

What the American poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth once noted about O'Hara is right on the money: Each of the poems has the air of a "fresh start." When encountering the best of them it is as if your eyes, long occluded, open suddenly onto the world.

This being O'Hara, there are newly-coined and revived words and phrases (cupiditously; buttered bees); thoughts of suicide, express and implied; premonitions of violence; paeans to pop culture icons ("For James Dean"); a campy fandom of Hollywood ("To the Film Industry in Crisis"); tossed off witticisms ("It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so"); a devotion to New York ("I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life"); and, finally, intimate love poems that draw us near.

He has an original voice, and yet I enjoy the occasions when he channels the sound as other poets, such as Ginsberg, or the Romantics, or even Shakespeare who I swear I hear in the poem "Radio.
Read more ›
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