Two favorite poets and their somewhat cracked take on ars poetica. Wendy Cope is mostly known for her humorous verse (she has a wonderful collection called “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis”) and Frank O’Hara for his personal New York-y testimonials, (the “I do this, I do that” poems that in his hands in are often droll wonders, but have a low success rate for others). But these two suggest you could switch views around: Wendy as the serious one, offering the testimony of a closely observant outsider, and Frank going for grin and giggle.
The Uncertainty of the Poet
I am a poet.
I am very fond of bananas.
I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.
I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond.
A fond poet of ‘I am, I am’-
Fond of ‘Am I bananas?
Am I?’-a very poet.
Bananas of a poet!
Am I fond? Am I very?
Poet bananas! I am.
I am fond of a ‘very.’
I am of very fond bananas.
Am I a poet?
Why I Am Not A Painter
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.