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Lunch Poems

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  4,319 ratings  ·  147 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noon, has paused at a sample Olivetti to type up thirty or forty lines of ruminations, or pondering more deeply has withdrawn to a darkened ware- or firehouse to limn...more
Paperback, 82 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights (first published 1964)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
27th out of 1,382 books — 1,528 voters
Meeting With Christ and Other Poems by Deepak ChaswalThe Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara by Frank O'HaraLunch Poems by Frank O'HaraMidnight Poems by Amanda SpringerCaressed by an Elfin Breeze by The Silver Elves
Modern Poetry/ Poetics List
3rd out of 68 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Christopher Hong
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...more
Aug 22, 2014 averybiird rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Beat Poetry, the NY School of Poets, or the early '60s
Shelves: 1960s-70s, poetry
I was not familiar with the New York School of poets of the 1960s and so was pleased to win Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems in a Goodreads Giveaway.

The poems were fun, exuberant, 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. Many of the poems are colorfu...more
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...more
“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
Black Elephants
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...more
Kevin Albrecht
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
May 31, 2014 h rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014, poetry
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
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.
Michael Poage
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
Oct 04, 2014 Aran rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Come all ye beatniks.
Cedric Key
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
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.
Ed Smith
Another book of my youth. but I have read 2 or 3 times since
1974. Lunch does captures the 1950-60s in New York City and the Modern
Art of that time period. O'Hara makes you want to relive
those days of easy conversation with an artist friend, a friend and/or convesation with your loved ones. New York at it is best.
Mark Desrosiers
The only Beat I trust. Wait, he wasn't a Beat was he? He was of the ahem New York School.

Still: the only Beat I trust. (This is a City Lights pocket rocket innit?)

Poor fertile, fecund O'Hara, he probably coulda become the queer Bukowski if only they'd banned dune-buggy traffic on Fire Island.
Jennifer Campaniolo
This is very much a collection of its time. I have to admit I was pretty lost--between O'Hara's scatting style of laying down lines to the 50's and early 60's pop culture references. I guess as much as I would like to be a Beat poets fan, I'm just not.
Aug 10, 2014 Brendan added it
Shelves: poetry
3 1/2

I wanted to like this more than I did. Maybe my hopes were set too high.

Anyway, O'Hara's lack of punctuation makes the reading difficult. He would often end a sentence and start a new one in the middle of a line, without any punctuation, so I would have to read it twice just to get the rhythm right. There were also some obscure cultural references without any explanations. They might have worked at the time of the original publication, but not as much fifty or so years later.

That being said...more
He's harder to read that I thought. He writes anout/for his clique but he's also relatable at times. More felt than totally understood.
Sara Comuzzo
Frank O'Hara appartenente alla Beat Generation, o meglio appartenente per metà poichè è molto lucido in realtà nelle sue poesie.
ecco che questa raccolta pubblicata inizialmente nel 1964 dalla Casa Editrice City Lights di Ferlinghetti è una sorta di diario che accompagna il poeta in una New York sgangherata dal 1953 al 1964. c'è di tutto dentro: amore, polemica, critiche alla società alla politica all'America, dediche ad amici, amanti. l'atmosfera è spesso quella che segue il dopo pranzo in cui i...more
A lot of the reviews on this collection seem to revel in the "charm" of O'Hara. I think this charm is the result of how O'Hara handles his reader. Whereas many people who approach Lunch Poems might be used to the rigid interpretive confines of something like Lowell's Life Studies, those that prefer or are more familiar with the work of language poets or the more ambiguous post-confessionals are not struck by the invitations O'Hara hands them and generally expect them. O'Hara handles poetry and e...more
I enjoyed reading Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems.” I especially appreciated the poet’s style, wit, and sensibility. However, I felt unable to relate to many of the cultural references, and found some of the more abstract poems to be somewhat incoherent.

One aspect of “Lunch Poems” that I found particularly striking was the sheer range of abstraction: poems ranged from the concrete and tangible (“A Step Away From Them”) to the abstract and dreamlike (“Fantasy”). While I certainly appreciated the drea...more
Gaurav Sethi
Yesterday was a stressful day, a day I probably should have picked up a book that makes me happy. As a result, I failed to complete yesterday’s challenge and post. That means you’ll get TWO 30 Day Book Challenge posts, lucky you.

So a book that makes me happy? Hmm. Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara. This small collection was given to me by my ex-gf. And despite our falling out and current lack of communication, I harbor no resentment and can appreciate the happy memories we had together. My ex and I sh...more
Daniel Lomax
Frank O'Hara is clearly a man of good taste: he likes Herman Melville, dislikes Henry James, and wears a wristwatch. He hates both crowds and solitude, and he's bitterly tired of cliché. He speaks of happiness and freedom.

O'Hara also has a knack for the brief and beautiful aphorism: he outdoes Whitman in one line when he speaks of "enormous bliss of American death", and later notes bluntly that "the sun doesn't always set, sometimes it just disappears". His sense of humour is so dark and absurd...more
Fiona Campbell
O'Hara's tossed little collection of poems will transport you to 1950's Manhattan at noon, sitting outside on your lunch break making petty and profound observations on life and the human condition. Lunch Poems is the quintessence of New York School, but I admit I'm somewhat of a stranger to modern poetry - I did occasionally have trouble with abnormal line breaks, obscure references, and surreal, stream-of-consciousness musings. But youthful, urban, and honest poems constructed with the lyric a...more
Dec 04, 2010 Jake rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I defintely don't understand Frank O'Hara, at least not in his entirety, maybe not even in his majority. He references a lot of names and places that I may have recognized in the 1950s or 1960s, but, here, I felt kind of like I was missing a lot of things. Also, his style sounds like one long run-on sentence sometimes.

However, I will say that, though I didn't quite grasp the poems as collective pieces, there were lines in here that were incredible. And he never used poetry to appear cynical. Eve...more
Ryan Bastian
This was my first experience with the poetry of Frank O'Hara. I still haven't done my homework on the poet so my review is mostly just original reactions. The flowing stream of consciousness in the poem takes your mind on a journey. The form was consistently unique, and I thought particular choices of line breaks were very clever. "poem" on page 27 was pretty funny and reminded me of Bukowski's raw humor. "three airs" however reminded me more of the classic poets with its deep and complex addres...more
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.
Samantha Albala
I think I may some how often be subliminally inspired by O'Hara. This collection of poems is a great example of how poets live and yearn for more out of life. He has some inspiring and shocking ways of expressing himself and the way the world should be, and a straightforwardness that is characteristic of his generation.
This little book has it going on. Its really a collection of hohum sort of everyday observances, which second to nature poetry is my favorite kind. I really enjoyed On Rachmaninoff's Birthday, read outloud. Rhapsody, 5 poems, Three airs, Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed) and of course I made sure to spend some extra time on The day the lady died. I made a list of one's I particularly liked, read them all over a few times, and couldn't get past the fact that the one poem written specifically for m...more
reading this collection was not unlike a stroll in the park for me, like a solitary rumination. observations trigger memories and memories trigger new images until a stroll through Manhattan is transformed into a reflection of O'Hara's every emotion. The amount of the author himself transmitted onto the page is astonishing.
one of my favorite lines in the collection is found on page 29 in a piece entitled Poem:

where does the evil of the year go
when September takes New York
and turns it into ozone...more
urban joy, urban squalor
new york
i want to scream, frank o'hara wants to scream

key word want; for now i'll be resigned and so will he; "you never come when you say you'll come but on the/other hand you do come"

it keeps on getting better and better, not so much repetition as perseverance, but it doesn't matter because lives are beyond kindergartenesque gold stars

here is a poem, short and savory, for the curious:
Instant coffee with slightly sour cream
in it, and a phone call to the beyond
which doesn...more
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  • The Sonnets
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  • My Life
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  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
  • The Maximus Poems
  • "A"
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  • Gasoline & The Vestal Lady on Brattle
  • Spring and All
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
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  • The Collected Poems
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...more
More about Frank O'Hara...
The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara Meditations in an Emergency Selected Poems Poems Retrieved In Memory Of My Feelings

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“Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!

As if there were no
such thing as integrity!”
“...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...” 17 likes
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