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Let's face it. Poetry can be old, hard to understand, and about as entertaining as watching paint dry on a rainy day (hint: it doesn't). We happen to love poetry, Shmoopers, but we can live with the fact that not everybody out there has their own T.S. Eliot bobble-head doll (we just need Sylvia Plath to complete the collection!).
If you are one of those many folks out there that thinks poetry is dry and dusty stuff, then Frank O'Hara's "Having a Coke with You" will be a refreshing change. O'Hara is considered a member of the Beat generation and the New York School, both groups of writers and other artists who—from the late 1930s through the 1960s—wanted to make art matter to the average person on the street. They wrote about daily struggles (by which we mean money, sex, drugs, and booze) in a way that was like having a conversation with an old friend. No "thee's" and "thou's" here. O'Hara and his buddies sought to capture the rhythms and flow of spoken speech in their writing, as if you were sitting down to have a coke with your bestie.
And like an ice-cold drink on a hot summer's day, this poem will set your skin tingling with its sweet, conversational tone. The accessible conversation that O'Hara creates with this poem is just one of the reasons you'll love it. Sure, you won't need a Ph.D. do understand what O'Hara is driving at, but that doesn't mean that he's just pouring empty calories into your head. More than just babbling, he's got something to say about art, but most of all about love.
"Having a Coke with You" captures one of those rare moments when you're reminded just how wonderful it can be to inhabit this planet. O'Hara's not writing this poem (published in 1958) to hit you over the head with Deep Thoughts. Nope, he's writing to celebrated the simple pleasures of life, and to show how much they matter. It may start out as just chillaxin' with a loved one over a soda, but you'll walk away with a newfound joy for life itself.
Okay, Shmoopers, confession time. We've been in love. We know, we know. It may seem hard to believe that someone as insightful, funny, hip, happening, but most of all humble as us would even have the time for someone else in our life. But, it's true. And we can remember trying to demonstrate our love for that someone with a special project.
We're sure that you've written a poem, or sung a song, or made a mix-tape (er, playlist) for that special someone in your life. Or, maybe like us, you made a life-sized statue of that person out of macaroni shells, hot glue, and glitter, dragged it onto the number 37 bus, changed to the #6 downtown, then had to run with it through a rainstorm only to present it to that special person as a big, soggy failure-pile. "Here you go, beloved! Hope you like crap!"
Know what, though? We learned something that day. It's the little things that count. Sure, it might be great if you got your pilot's license and skywrote "You + Me = 4Ever" over your high school graduation, but come on. Is that really necessary? We can fully, totally appreciate another person in the smallest ways, in seemingly the most insignificant moments of life. No macaroni necessary.
That's what Frank O'Hara's describing with "Having a Coke with You." It's not a grand, artistic creation that just bowls someone over. O'Hara actually says that all that hard work is really beside the point. Just to be in the moment, to appreciate something as minor as sharing a soda, is what it's all about. If you think about it that way, you don't have to worry about cooking the perfect meal or writing the perfect note to the ones we love. It's enough, simply, just to love them. In fact, it's more than enough. It's everything. And that's a lesson that is well worth learning.
Frank lives. Here. In e-form. Find his work, videos, images, and audio.
Here's more good info on your poet, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Poetry Foundation.
"Having a Reading with You"
O'Hara reads the poem, live on YouTube. And by live, we mean recorded ages ago. Note the conversational tone of his delivery.
Draper Does O'Hara
Just when you thought Don Draper couldn't get any cooler, we give you this. Our hero makes a Mad Men cameo, in book form when Don reads from O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency.
Frank O'Hara, Punk Rock Composer?
Major cool points for watching this discussion of Frank O'Hara, rocker Patti Smith, and composer Meredith Monk.
Perloff on O'Hara
Well-known literary critic Marjorie Perloff talks about O'Hara, about whom she wrote an entire book. This lady knows her stuff.
Poets John Ashbery and Ron Padgett discuss their memories of their old buddy Frank O'Hara.
Our poet, with a smile for the camera.
Hey, it's just paint.
Review of O'Hara's Selected Poems
Here's a look back at the poet's life and work, by Dan Chiasson for hoity-toity The New Yorker.
This discussion covers O'Hara's influence on younger (hipster) poets, by Ange Mlinko for Poetry magazine.
"A Poet Among Painters"
From Marjorie Perloff's book, here's a discussion of the importance of the visual arts to O'Hara's work.
Wanna learn about O'Hara's life? Well, then, read this biography.
The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
The. Definitive. Collection.