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Happiness meme_Day six

I don't know if this counts but I just finished reading a book "Digressions on some poems by Frank O'Hara" by Joe LeSueur that I put off finishing just as long as I could, I never wanted it to end. I actually started reading two other books, and finished one, while reading it just to slow myself down. The one not finished is a book of O'Hara's previously unpublished poems gathered up in 1996 by Donald Allen titled "Poems Retrieved".

"Digressions" was written by LeSueur around thirty-five years after O'Hara died (in 1966) about his time in the company of O'Hara and The New York School of Poetry. I fell in love instantly with this man and the way he wrote his 'memoir', it's as if you're with him, sitting around chatting in a way, he talks to the reader and in such a gentle way, asking you for your opinion and your forgiveness when he runs off on his tangents. And it's utterly immediate, he says things like 'as I sit looking at my computer screen...' or 'in rereading this poem I just remebered....'. I had to keep reminding myself it was written by a seventy-five year old man who died  eight years ago, he was so fresh and easy to read.

When I finsihed, I had tears in my eyes. The last chapter is the telling of how O'Hara died, the funeral etc. That's the end but it wasn't supposed it be. LeSueur died, the manuscript was found among his papers, just before its completion. How fitting somehow, such beautifully symetry. And LeSueur died in East Hampton which is where O'Hara is buried (and Jackson Pollack). It's as if LeSueur never left O'Hara.

The draft of the manuscript was accompanied by this pefatory note:
"'Because I lived with Frank O'Hara for nine and a half years, from the summer of 1955 until January 1965, and because his poetry tends to be autobiographical, I am inundated with memories of our life together when I read certain works of his from that period and just before. The four apartments we shared, the people we saw, the events large and small that shaped our lives -all this is brought to mind. Thus, in the present work, it was my intention to explore these aspects of Frank's poems, the evocation of old memories; and in doing so, I was discurvise and disposed to going off on wild tangents. Also, since I thought it important that the reader have some idea of who I am and where I'm coming from, I added extensive background material about myself -so much, in fact, that I had the uncomfortable feeling I was upstaging Frank. But what could I do? The book wrote itself, just as its title was automatic. These personal notes on Frank's poems are indeed disgressions, and I make no claim for their vlaue."

So where's the happiness in all this? I've had the experience of this wonderful book and tomorrow, if I want, I can start it all over again.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
Wow, sounds like a wonderful read! I'm not familiar with much of O'Hara's work, but I love the poem Steps.
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
I wanted LeSueur to be alive so I could find him and tell him how much I loved his book, but no

'Steps' is a great poem, written in 1961, but I think, so far, my favorite is 'A Step Away From Them'. I did a little post awhile back about him. Here's the link if your interested:
It's the third one down.
Apr. 25th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I like that one too! Thanks for the link.
Apr. 27th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)
not a problem.
Apr. 24th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
You've recommended two books this week and I want to go get them both! Thank you!

I think I will be reading this one first, as it sounds incredible and exactly the type of narrative I love--plus, I love poetry. And digressions, lol.

Again, thank you for writing about these books and sharing your discoveries.

Apr. 24th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
You can get "Digressions" thru B&N here:
but I just got my copy thru amazon here:
This book really delves into the poetry and art scene in New York during the fifties and sixties which is a focus time for me. And what it was like to be gay during that time. If you do get it, I hope I haven't over hyped it, and that you like it. I just adore him. He's rather aimless, sort of just lets life take him along, a little selfish and a little vain, and I adore him.

The other book I rec'ed was the memoir I read so I wouldn't finish this one.
Apr. 24th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
so great to see you're so in love with the book that you never want it to end. i don't think i've experienced that even with some of my all-time favorites.
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
I was half way done when I started also reading the poetry book, and two-thirds when I started and finished a novel, just trying to make it last. It was his writing, and obviously his story of the very good and the very bad about being gay in New York in the fifties, but it was also just him. Honestly, Brit, I think I may have fallen in love with him just a little.

What would be a couple of your all-time favorites?
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
my favorite poetry book is a small collection of poems by rilke. it's a hardback, which is unusual for me, but i love it to pieces.

my favorite novel is "the stranger" by albert camus. i've probably read it twelve times since my senior year of high school. since then, i've read just about everything he put out.
Apr. 24th, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
both are among those I know I should have checked out, and read, but haven't yet. Now I will. Thanks.
Apr. 24th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
The way you have described this book makes me want to rush right out to get a copy! Somehow it sounds very familiar even though I am sure I've never read it.

Thanks for the recommendation.
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
I got my copy thru amazon but I also know you can get it thru Barnes&Noble. It's the story of poetry, art and being gay in New York throughout the fifties and into the sixties. For me what's not to love plus LeSueur is just so charming and I don't know, almost like tender. I'm glad you liked my description, I just hope I haven't over hyped it. It's exactly my kind of book and every review I've read seems to agree so, if you do read it, let me know what you think. And I would expect you to tell me so even if you think it sucks.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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