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Lunch Poems

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,749 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
Important poems by the late New York poet published in The New American Poetry, Evergreen Review, Floating Bear and stranger places.

Often this poet, strolling through the noisy splintered glare of a Manhattan noon, has paused at a sample Olivetti to type up thirty or forty lines of ruminations, or pondering more deeply has withdrawn to a darkened ware- or firehouse to limn
Paperback, 82 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights (first published 1964)
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Brendan I think the title is a reference to when they were written, not the subject.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 15, 2015 Geoff added it
Some days the patina of sadness that accretes on everything like the residue of Time itself, the film or layer of mortality that is probably only a phenomenon of our seeing being somehow linked with our memories, that glistens and coats our world as we pass through it, is undeniable and becomes as much a factor of our environment as that grey and yellow winter light, that is somewhere between sunlight and moonlight, but objects retreat into it, like those squeaks from the floor, or those white w ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Douglas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to City Lights and Goodreads for the review copy.

O'Hara's poems were somewhat difficult to grasp and required an investment of time to understand and absorb. Written during his lunch breaks from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) during the the late 50s and early 60s, this collection illuminates the conscience thought.

I think it's always a good thing to reveal consciousness through art, but it's also equally important to be able to understand the purpose of such revelations. Why are you le
Christopher Hong
Jan 18, 2008 Christopher Hong rated it it was amazing
Shelves: verses, canon
These poems kept me grounded as I wandered listlessly through the streets of Paris seeking meaning, but finding only my own dim, drunken reflection. Like a true flaneur, with poems in my pocket and a steady supply of cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol-- I conquered apathy by swallowing it whole.

Memoir of Sergei O by Frank O'Hara

My feet have never been comfortable
since I pulled them out of the Black Sea
and came to your foul country
what fatal day did I dry them off for
travel loathsome travel to a wor
Dec 27, 2015 averybiird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Beat Poetry, the NY School of Poets, or the early '60s
I was not familiar with the New York School of poets and so was pleased to win Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems in a Goodreads Giveaway.

These poems were fun and conversational. They read like diary entries filled with lunch hour wanderings, travel experiences, and friends the author knows (one poem is dedicated to Allen Ginsberg). O’Hara’s style reminds me of Beat poetry in that it is free-verse and spontaneous, but with an added urban sensibility. There are several colorful descriptions of New York
Apr 04, 2015 Troy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2014
Before O'Hara, my favorite poets were largely depressing goths, wallowing in booze, despair, and self-hatred. And then I read O'Hara! Joy and a love that's not in the abstract, but in the concrete everyday, and brings out joy and a love in me. O'Hara captures the pleasure of walking with someone you love and suddenly you notice a magazine cover in a window with an actor you both love, and look how the light reflects the leaves on the sidewalk over the window, and, damn, it's pretty amazing to be ...more
Jul 05, 2015 Abeer rated it really liked it
O'hara's poetry is human and chaotic. He was clearly a very sensitive person swayed and influenced by his surroundings, his mood is acutely intuned by the things he's seen and read, the city he lives in and the people he loves. Of course, that sounds a bit ridiculous, because who isn't? but to him, they make their way to his every poem, making them maybe hard to read for some, all the allusions, sometimes even to to people we'll never know, people in his life (I guess that's just a reference the ...more
Sep 24, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
It's my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola [...]
- A Step Away from Them (pg. 15)

It is 12:10 in New York and I am wondering
if I will finish this in time to meet Norman for lunch
ah lunch! I think I am going crazy
what with my terrible hangover and the weekend [...]
- Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul (pg. 34)

an invitation to lunch
when I only have 1
Mar 11, 2008 Steven rated it liked it
“I’m so damned literary,” Frank O’Hara proclaims in his “Poem En Forme De Saw” and this exclamation is a succinct summation of his voice throughout this famous collection of work (68). And the fact that he says this in the voice of a saw indicates his great ability to combine high-brow intellectualism with an average Joe mentality. Using this combination, O’Hara documents the life of a writer who must work a day job, stealing poetic moments on lunch breaks and using vacation time as writing tim ...more
May 28, 2015 Leonor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Frank, Frank, Frank.
Black Elephants
Jan 03, 2012 Black Elephants rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Mad Men is a great show, and it is the reason why Frank O'Hara has been on my radar. So when I saw that my indie bookstore Portrait of a Bookstore had a copy of Lunch Poems, which supposedly inspired Matthew Wiener to write certain episodes in Season 2.... Well, I was stuck. I bought it.

I spent this morning reading it in bed, and I really loved it. Within the first few lines, I knew I was dealing with a "spontaneous poet"—someone who wrote in stream of conscious, pulling together abstract associ
Michael Poage
Aug 20, 2013 Michael Poage rated it it was amazing
This about the 5th time I have read LUNCH POEMS. The book is a kind of meditative experience for me and has been over the years. Of course, I recommend it to anyone. Also, I bought my latest copy at City Lights Bookstore which I also recommend to everyone. It is a great shop for books, a solid and IMPORTANT press, as well as an American icon in San Francisco on Columbus, North Beach (a great place for wondering - and you can stay at the Sam Wong Hotel - I did for a couple of nights - for a true ...more
Nov 18, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Here's my favorite book of poetry. I've been reading and re-reading it for many years. This is a nice, new hardcover edition and replaces a tattered one damaged by many trips in a backpack to strange wild places.
Julie Ehlers
Feb 28, 2015 Julie Ehlers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I have to say that some Frank O'Hara poems leave me totally cold, but the ones I love I really love.

This 50th anniversary edition reproduced some correspondence between O'Hara and Ferlinghetti leading up to the publication of Lunch Poems, but to be honest, it wasn't that interesting and didn't add much to the book. I hadn't realized, though, that we didn't have 5-digit ZIP codes in the early sixties--the one- and two-digit codes the men used for NYC and SF amazed me.
Mar 21, 2015 J.C. rated it it was amazing
Best if read out loud,
After a meal,
And with friends
Who have a good sense of humor.
Johan Thilander
Allt jag kan tänka är hur mycket Gunnar Harding måste gilla denna samling.
Oct 25, 2015 Ben rated it liked it
Perhaps this is a work for which I set my expectations too high. I had planned on reading Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems (many allegedly written during O'Hara's lunch breaks) for some time, mainly because I've always enjoyed works that are part of the Pocket Poets Series. I found, however, that unlike other installments in that series, O'Hara's poems didn't really affect me at all. There were some lines that struck me here and there ("it's true that fresh air is good for the body/but what about the ...more
Kevin Albrecht
Mar 16, 2009 Kevin Albrecht rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Lunch Poems is published by the famous bookstore about three blocks from my house, City Lights Books, so I felt a certain affinity to this book starting off. I couldn't have asked for a greater contrast from William Blake (the last poet I read) than this. Frank O'Hara focuses on primarily city themes and pop culture, drawing strength not from nature but from the city and human contact. Some of the most conversational poems in this collection are written almost as a diary of an hour in O'Hara's l ...more
Aug 08, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2015, 2016
This book of poems is a constant source of hope, of inspiration, and of comfort to me. Frank O'Hara is one of my most favorite literary personages ever EVER, and these little snippets of his life are just so beautiful. He is the master of finding poetry in the mundane. I love this lil book so much.
May 31, 2014 h rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2014
at his best, o'hara displays humor finely tuned to the music of the line and shares his vision with the reader. a certain level of opacity and interiority keeps me outside looking in at a number of these, though.
Jim Coughenour
Aug 11, 2014 Jim Coughenour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetryforliving
It's a cliché to love these poems so much, but I doubt that would bother O'Hara at all. This is what happiness looks like.
Dec 20, 2014 Belinda rated it it was amazing
I haven't read all of his poems yet, but I am inspired by just how much he can include in one poem. Every aspect of O'Hara's life seems to make an appearance, his sex life, his desires, work, lunch, art, the local news, the city, friends.

I think the people who look at O'Hara's seemingly easy, diary style way of writing will think he's just scribbled some thoughts and observations down. Well, try it, let's see how well you manage to summarise a life in a few lines. Poetry is hard, people, well,
James Watt
Dec 10, 2015 James Watt rated it it was ok
O'Hara is no Ginsberg.
Ethan Miller
Jun 07, 2015 Ethan Miller rated it really liked it
Lunch Poems spans nearly a decade of poems from 1953 to 1964. Published in '64. A collection of beautiful, inspired snapshots (or spiritual polaroids if you will) of life in New York City. The story goes that O'Hara wrote these poems on his lunch hour while working at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and indeed they have the feeling of both observing the roaring, bustling city and being fully in it and of it. Readers who work in the heart of the great cities of the world and bask in the roa ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed this a lot. Wish I could have read it in NYC in the summertime while eating a piping hot pastrami sandwich, but windy rainy grey England in February just had to do. The edition I had included letters with Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the end charting the book's publication, which I found a very interesting read--it was especially cool seeing what poems got cited by Lawrence as the ones that stood out most to him. I will always like Frank O'Hara's simple, direct, easy-to-read style, I think ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Aran rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Come all ye beatniks.
Cedric Key
Sep 05, 2014 Cedric Key rated it really liked it
It is a short collection, but the contents on Lunch Poems make up what feels like a personal saga. The poems are episodic and feel like they are arranged almost chronologically in a yearlong sequence, although the dating of the poems belies that idea. New York poets hold a growing influence over me now that I am actually living on one of the avenues that is so reverently yet so nauseatingly described by Frank O'Hara. His love of the city is clear in his writing just like his love of France, and ...more
Feb 03, 2014 David rated it really liked it
My MFA mentor strongly suggested this to me, and I'm glad she did. It's O'Hara's tour of late 50s and early 60s New York, and he takes his readers along with him. We get to meet the people he name drops, go to the places he goes, and eat lunch along with him. There's a degree of surrealism to some of the poems, but most of them are pretty straight-forward and take the tone of two close friends having an intimate conversation in hushed tones.
Oli (Eli)
Aug 12, 2015 Oli (Eli) rated it it was amazing
i died
Nov 13, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing
It's nice to read Frank O'Hara outside The Complete Poems of Frank O'Hara. Reading a little, flawed book like this helps you appreciate the tossed off manner in which Frank wrote, and saved, and thought about his poems. Which makes them even better. Sometimes The Complete Poems of Frank O'Hara feels a little too school-marmy for dear beloved Frank. Beautiful book. Thanks Ferlinghetti.
Mary Catherine
Apr 27, 2013 Mary Catherine rated it it was amazing
You know that feeling when someone's lent you a book and midway through the first page you realize you're never going to give it back to its rightful owner because how could you ever let it go?

"oh god it's wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much"

I'm a book thief. But who could blame me.
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  • The Sonnets
  • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
  • My Life
  • The Dream Songs
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • Tender Buttons
  • The Book of Nightmares
  • The Maximus Poems
  • Spring and All
  • Geography III
  • "A"
  • Deepstep Come Shining
  • Some Ether
  • New Collected Poems
  • My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry
  • Life Studies and For the Union Dead
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
Frank O'Hara was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts. O'Hara served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarman on the destroyer USS Nicholas during World War II.

With the funding made available to veterans he attended Harvard University, where he roomed with artist/writer Edward Gorey. Although he majored in music and did some composing, his attendance was irregular
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“...but it is good to be several floors up in the dead of night wondering whether you are any good or not and the only decision you can make is that you did it...” 25 likes
“Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!

As if there were no
such thing as integrity!”
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