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Meditations in an Emergency

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,751 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Frank O’Hara was one of the great poets of the twentieth century and, along with such widely acclaimed writers as Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder, a crucial contributor to what Donald Allen termed the New American Poetry, "which, by its vitality alone, became the dominant force in the American poetic tradition.”

Frank O’Hara was born in Balt
Paperback, 52 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Grove Press (first published 1957)
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The Best of Everything by Rona JaffeAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandMeditations in an Emergency by Frank O'HaraThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner�die� ganze Welt von Mad Men [Ein Offizielles Mad Men Buch] by Dyna Moe
Mad Men-Leseliste
3rd out of 22 books — 11 voters
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréMeditations in an Emergency by Frank O'HaraNicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. MassieThe Miracle Worker by William  GibsonGoodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Books Featured on "Mad Men"
2nd out of 53 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jul 24, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In the second season of Madmen, Don Draper, awash in the chaos of his own identity, recites these lines from "Mayakovsky," the last poem in this book:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

Frank O'Hara's poetry does not have to wait--quietly or otherwise. It is always beautiful and interesting. And, sixty years later, it still seems modern too.

Most 20th Century verse lovers, if asked what midcentury poet inherited the lega
Modern poetry is for advanced people. If you're not advanced, put this slim volume of "fractured", "delicate", "touched" poems down. These are not for you. You best stick with your "prose."

Try this as a test: "That's funny! there's blood on my chest/oh yes, I've been carrying bricks/what a funny place to rupture!/and now it is raining on the ailanthus/as I step out onto the window ledge/the tracks are smoky and/glistening with a passion for running/I leap into leaves, green like the sea."

See w
General H. Sassafras
Feb 12, 2011 General H. Sassafras rated it really liked it
I don't read poetry too terribly often, and the primary reason I even KNEW of this particular book was from the show Mad Men. So sue me. I'd bet most people who've recently read it have the same exact reason.


Each poem has a particular flare of pure 1960's energy. Having studied that era in relative detail, I still can't quite put my finger on what exactly tickles my fancy about it... There's a definite sense of ambivalence that occasionally lingers on the precipice of depression mixed with
Jul 28, 2016 Frankie rated it really liked it
Of all the New York School brats, from Beat Gen to Greenwich Village, O’Hara is my favorite. He was a curator at MOMA and his poetry shows a visual style that the others lack. He incorporates pop culture, especially Hollywood celebrities. He's subtle. He conveys dark humor without shouting, a la Ginsburg. His chief concern is the middle class identity crisis. His works are daydream-like and sometimes-alcoholic trances with flickering stars of screen and stage.

O’Hara’s world is less polished but
Sep 14, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don
Oct 20, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it
"To the Harbormaster, my ship was on the way, it got caught up in some moorings...'Call me, call when you get in!' best an over-solemn introduction to cosmic entertainment...long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, delays...

We, in secret play
affectionate games and bruise
our knees like China's shoes

And thus they grew like giggling fir trees...Haven't you ever fallen down at Christmas?...placing my fingers tenderly upon your cold, tired eyes. There is a geography which ho
Jan 07, 2014 Jacob rated it it was amazing
"I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life."

Still the best introduction to O'Hara. the Collected Works is very disorganized and inaccessible to newcomers and Selected Poems just doesn't have the flow of O'Hara's original publications, of which Meditations is certainly the finest. O'Hara's signature pop culture lightness just cascades from page to page, even the more unassuming poems feed i
Nov 03, 2015 yarrow rated it it was amazing
your volcanic flesh hides
everything from the watchman,
and the tendrils of dreams
strangle policemen running by

too slowly to escape you,
the racing vertiginous waves
of your murmuring need.
Sep 24, 2010 Beth rated it really liked it
Recommended to Beth by: Don Draper :)
"Why should I share you? Why don't you get rid of someone else for a change?

"I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love."

How can you not, at the very least, give an extra moment's pause to enjoy the beauty and raw emotion of those lines?

Jun 03, 2009 Albert added it
Shelves: friendly-borrow
There are exactly 115 exclamation points in this collection (114 if you don't count an epigraph). Here are all of them:

<------------------------This book------------------------->

<-------------------------My head-------------------------->
Feb 11, 2015 Tosh rated it it was amazing
I had to go to Downtown Los Angeles yesterday for a new passport photograph, and needing something to read on the bus to go back home, I went to the library. I picked up Frank O'Hara's "Meditations in an Emergency." Due to the nature of bus riding, I prefer reading poetry, because it is the perfect medium for a public transportation ride. O'Hara has been a long-time fave of mine, and oddly enough I never read this volume of poems by him. I mostly read collected or selected poem collections, and ...more
Kevin Albrecht
Mar 21, 2009 Kevin Albrecht rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of free verse poetry
Recommended to Kevin by: Don Draper on Mad Men
Shelves: poetry
With the completion of Meditations in an Emergency, I have read both collections of poetry that Frank O'Hara had published during his lifetime. Compared to Lunch Poems, Meditations in an Emergency reflects in some ways a more formal style.

My favorite poems in the collection were "To the Harbormaster", "Poem (The eager note on my door...)", "Meditations in an Emergency", and "Mayakovsky".

His work is alternately funny and sad. Some poems are highly introspective while others are focused on the liv
Jul 28, 2015 Amélie rated it liked it
Shelves: poésie, états-unis, 2015
J'essaie encore de décortiquer ce que j'aime, en poésie, mais je peux dire que ce recueil a été pas mal hit or miss pour moi.

Dans les meilleurs passages, j'ai eu l'impression de tomber sur des morceaux très délicats de quelque chose de plus grand ; regarder dans le trou d'une serrure, peut-être, et être ébloui par le peu de lumière qui nous parvient. Des réalités suggérées plus qu'expliquées, l'idée que les mots sont souvent inadéquats à l'heure de décrire ce qui gronde en nous & autour de n
Sarah Elizabeth Chitwood
The surf was bland and white,/ as pine trees are white when,/ in Paradise, no wind is blowing.
This collections spills over with colorful stills of contemplation.

Ah be with me always, spirit of noisy/ contemplation in the studio, the Garden/ of Zoos, the eternally fixed afternoons!
A work with an eye to explore the surroundings which lead to creation.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under/ them, too, don't I? I'm just like a pile of leaves.
Creating the scene, O'Hara creates a charac
I choose not to rate this book as I just didn't get it. One reviewer said that "modern poetry is for advanced people". I clearly am not an advanced person.
Dec 05, 2008 britany rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs
mayakovsky is the one thing that keeps me from loathing/abhorring poetry in general.
Sep 12, 2011 Shana rated it really liked it
I am one of the many people who picked up this collection of poetry because Don Draper was reading it at a bar in Mad Men, in an episode named after it. I have read through it a few times now and find myself drawn to certain passages and bored/untouched by others. O'Hara worked as a critic and a curator at MOMA during the height of the abstract-expressionist period, and there seems to be a bit of that way of thinking in his poetry: emotional, idiosyncratic, and littered with unanswered questions ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Julia rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
i really liked frank o'hara in i think ninth grade, or maybe it was tenth. whenever i read lunch poems.* i will probably bring lunch poems with me to college. the cover of meditations in an emergency is terrible, embarrassing, but i was tired of waiting for a nicer edition to come to me. frank o'hara uses "green" really well in emotional situations, and also exclamation points. he is the only writer whose exclamation points i can stand, maybe. there's a lot of barely-not-really-self-contained en ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Lucy rated it really liked it
I found some of the poems a little intense to read late at night, but I absolutely loved "Meditations in an Emergency" and a few of the later pieces in my edition. "Mayakovksy" was also the reason why I bought the collection in the first place. To me, the sign of a great poem is not struggling over it, but rather feeling completely drawn in by words that seem nothing less than personal. Certainly a text I'll return to again and again.
Nov 01, 2009 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A "Mad Men" read, straight from the bookshelves of Donald Draper. Not bad, though the collection is a bit front-loaded, with the best poem, To the Harbormaster, being the first. The collection also lost some zing for me when I stopped to read some poems by the relatively unknown Edgar Bowers. Bowers' poems are considerably better. It was like whipped cream vs. heavy fiber. Still, this is a collection worth reading.
Nov 16, 2014 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Not really a "star-rating" type of book - I'm not sure poetry collections should be (I've just started reading poetry, so, early impression).
Not every poem here stunned me, but there are enough stunners to make me love the collection. It also lead me to some YouTube videos of O'Hara reading his work, and a very nice one, about 15-minutes, of him talking and reading. I also love Frank O'Hara now, and found myself sad at his early death.

I think the "misses" here, the poems that don't do much for m
Andrew Yuen
Aug 26, 2016 Andrew Yuen rated it really liked it
O'Hara is an odd one. One moment its "Mayakovsky", and O'Hara is so concrete and beautiful about this world. A sense of time slowing in that emotional interior, biding his time for someone beautiful to come along.

I understood completely. They always pass me by.

The next moment you get a poem from O'Hara. The sun is talking to him, and it is flighty and weird. Not a good time to be talking about an anthropomorphic sun. This is an emergency, remember?

I am unhappy. When I was especially unhappy, I t
Jul 19, 2009 Joe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, poetry
Read the title poem and you will be hooked. It's not just a plot point in Mad Men, it's also a masterpiece.
Mar 04, 2009 Joanna rated it really liked it
Yep, I read it because of Don Draper.
Erin Boyington
Sep 24, 2013 Erin Boyington rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I first learned to love poetry in college when I had a marvelous professor (whose voice I still hear when I read T.S. Eliot or W.B. Yeats). But since then I've fallen away from even my favorite poets, short of time and focus. Lyric poetry in particular takes time to read, reread, and savor. If books are like dishes of food, lyric poetry is like a particularly rich, dark chocolate truffle. You can't eat it all at once. "Truffle poems" are ones I've reread a dozens of times, poems that always surp ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Joseph rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Count me in amongst the many who picked this book up after it was featured in the second season of Mad Men. I read it, but I didn't really feel like I'd read it, so I left it sitting in my "currently reading" list. For three years.

To be honest, I like a little more structure in my poetry, but O'Hara's messiness is certainly appropriate. These are poems of striving, of moving forward, and for that, there's no time for stopping to adjust meter and rhyme scheme.

He's a little ambivalent about tone,
Ronald Koltnow
Mar 10, 2016 Ronald Koltnow rated it liked it
Poetry is somewhat beyond me. I liked much of MEDITATIONS yet I don't know if I have a strong enough sense of the language and construction to do it justice. Some poems seemed conversational, some seemed too imagist, but through it all lies a sense of disguise, of conflict within the personality as well as within the society. I will read it again, a rare thing to say from one wedded to fiction. Perhaps somewhere I will develop an aesthetic.
Jan 08, 2013 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is not at all my poetry style, so at points I really couldn't penetrate it. However, there were these I guess "moments of clarity:" "To the Harbormaster," "Meditations in an Emergency," "Sleeping on the Wing," "Mayakovsky."

I did not get a lot of the references, they just did not mean anything to me.

What struck me:

"obvious as an ear"

"who taught me/ how to be bad and not bad rather than good"

"Haven't you ever fallen down at Christmas/ and didn't it move everyone who saw you?"


Oct 24, 2015 Alyssa rated it really liked it
I'm on a kick lately of reading 1950s/60s writing about people with identity crises...definitely a few lines that popped out at me in this collection, all with that subtle undercurrent of mid century malaise.

"The Chamois found him and they came in droves to humiliate him. alone, in the clouds, he was humiliated."

"I eat a lot so I won't get drunk and then I'll drink a lot so I feel excited."
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  • My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry
  • This Connection of Everyone With Lungs
  • The Tunnel: Selected Poems
  • Deepstep Come Shining
  • Selected Poems
  • Hotel Insomnia
  • Recyclopedia: Trimmings / S*PeRM**K*T / Muse and Drudge
  • Elegy On Toy Piano
  • Dancing in Odessa
  • Glass, Irony and God
  • The Incognito Lounge
  • The Branch Will Not Break
  • The Maximus Poems
  • Winter Trees
  • I Remember
  • The Collected Poems, 1975-2005
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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“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” 347 likes
“My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up.” 148 likes
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