why i am not a painter summary
In Frank OБHaraБs poem, БWhy I am Not a PainterБ he compares himself, a poet, to his friend, an artist named Mike Goldberg. O Hara compares GoldbergБs techniques as an artist to his own poetic techniques. When asked by OБHara why he has sardines in his painting,бGoldberg replied that he put it in his painting because Бit needed something thereБ (9) but then a few lines later Goldberg takes it out since he though It was too much (16). In the end though, the painting is named sardines even though there are no sardines in it. Goldberg paints and then paints over it; he comes up with ideas to fill space that then may be later rejected. Though there are no sardines in it his painting is still called sardines because of the rejected space filler. OБHara compares GoldbergБs creative process to his own. He explains how he starts off with an idea and after time his idea develops; he may write a whole poem based on an idea never actually mentioned by name in the poem. OБHara tells us how БOne day I am thinking of/ a color: orangeБ and he then uses this idea, the idea of orange, to come up with words, then lines, and soon pages (17-18).
Goldberg appears to paint and then come up with the meaning behind it. He paints sardines to fill space and then rejects that whole painting but the sardines seem to inspire him to name his new panting sardines after the original painting. This is in contrast to OБHara who says he first starts off with an idea and then builds on it using his original idea to take him all the way through, though he may not even mention the original idea by name at all. Why do you think that Goldberg named his painting sardines after the rejected sardines? Do you think that O Hara is saying that his way of writing poetry is better than GoldbergБs method of painting or do you think he thinks they are equal but different?
Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter" was first published in 1957 in the Evergreen Review. Having a reputation for publishing some of the more adventurous works of the day, Evergreen Review was a fitting venue for O'Hara. Going against the predominant "neo-Symbolist" poetry of the timeGa poetry in the tradition of T. S. Eliot, which critic Paul Carroll characterized in his The Poem in Its Skin as "civilized, verbally excellent, ironic, cerebral"GO'Hara's work is usually conversational and casual in tone. "Why I Am Not a Painter," in fact, like many of O'Hara's poems, reads as if O'Hara had simply improvised it off the top of his head.
Considered by many critics to be one of O'Hara's greatest poems, "Why I Am Not a Painter" reflects upon the creative process by comparing the writing of O'Hara's poem "Oranges: 12 Pastorals" with the painting of "SARDINES," a canvas by O'Hara's friend, the painter Mike Goldberg. Told in the first person from O'Hara's point of view, "Why I Am Not a Painter" is a narrative poem in which we see O'Hara dropping in on Goldberg who, at the moment, is starting his painting. After describing the process Goldberg goes through in order to complete "SARDINES," O'Hara reflects upon the process he himself goes through in order to write "ORANGES. " Both "ORANGES" and "SARDINES" have what appear to be unusual starting points, with O'Hara initiating the poetic process by thinking about the color orange, and Goldberg beginning his painting by brushing the word "SARDINES" on his canvas.
In the end, however, neither of the finished works contains a trace of what originally inspired them: O'Hara's poem never mentions "orange" and Goldberg's painting no longer has the word "SARDINES" in it. During the course of "Why I Am Not a Painter," O'Hara does not mention the title of either the poem or the painting he is discussing. He saves that until the end when he reveals that, despite the disappearance within each work of the original source of inspiration, the finished poem and painting are titled, respectively, "ORANGES" and "SARDINES. " Critic Marjorie Perloff, writing in her Frank O 'Hara: Poet among Painters, describes "Why I Am Not a Painter" as "a profound jest" in answer to the question of why O'HaraGwho was heavily involved with the art world and who eventually became a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New YorkGwas not himself a painter. Indeed, on a certain level the poem is a joke. Yet, as critics such as Perloff have noted, the humor and levity one finds in O'Hara's poetry does not make his work any less profound.
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