“I miss you so much that, at the risk of seeming fatuous, I thought I’d let you know it. I suppose that’s the literary curse, isn’t it? making everything known?”
a letter from frank o’hara to larry rivers, his more than once ex-lover
picked up the seminal biography of frank o’hara, ‘city poet’ by brad gooch, mostly because i wanted to know what was behind ‘meditations in an emergency,’ both the book and the poem. the marks of an ex-lover seem writ quite large, and i wanted to discover if it was fact or fabrication.
fact, most certainly. o’hara was a very autobiographical poet, almost to exclusion. even the more seemingly impersonal poems, the ones referencing music, relate back to both the pianist he dated for a time between stints with rivers and his own education in classical piano.
(it also adds an entirely new level to the poem ‘the river,’ knowing now the name of the lover to whom it refers. what must it have been like to read it, knowing – or being – the reference?)
i was speaking with some friends about a film recently, and one criticized it (and the director) as being ‘too self-indulgent.’ another friend promptly called this out as a non-statement – the quality of being self-indulgent really says nothing about the quality of the work itself. thinking about it, i think that most art works are necessarily self-indulgent. they are created either by the desire for them to exist or the need. they are necessarily self-indulgent because a self created them, an ego – not in the sense of arrogance, but the most basic sense of ‘i’. just as most actions are from one angle or another selfish, because a self is involved.
it’s the same problem with perspective and truth, isn’t it? the ineluctable (thank you, susan sontag, for that word!) gravity of the ‘i’, which distorts entirely what the eye (forgive the pun) perceives.
tying back to the quote that opened this up, i’m working more on curbing that impulse in myself, to make everything known. it is interesting to read this biography and see how much information is gleaned from letters – what will be the primary sources for our generation? chat logs? blogs? god forbid, twitter?
if anyone is looking for me, what will they find? what whole days (and later their years) will be entirely unchronicled?
i like the idea of leaving selective lacunas behind.