Sunday, 11 October 2009

Frank O'Hara: Why I Am Not a Painter

Last thursday was National Poetry Day. Anyone who has happened upon this blog will have read some of my poetry and I continue to write poetry on a daily basis. I am also studying a poetry module "Poetry Now" at uni.

I sat in the cafe of a local garden centre last week doing some homework, reading Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney poems. I flicked though the vast anthology which is the core text for this module and a poem by Frank O'Hara called "Why I Am Not a Painter", which you can read here, caught my eye. It resonated strongly with me - it explains what I cannot. Why I am not a painter.

I have always painted and stopped and started again. It was my earliest wish to be a fine artist. I did a lot of painting in the couple of years before my marriage broke up, and for nearly a year after. When I fell pregnant with Sam I stopped. I have daubed and dabbled a bit since but not had much time. But I have always found time to write. And the more I write the more I write. I am more poet than painter but a bit painter too and that seems, finally, to sit very well with me.


  1. The poem is an absolute joy to read. Which makes me think, are we what we are because we decide to be or because we can't be something else? You wrote about your experience of painting, if the image included in the post is yours, congrats, it's fantastic. But then again, I don't paint. Nor have I any wish to do so. So, I judge your painting from a layperson's point of view, whichin effect is how I judge most art around me. Confusing, maybe? I hope I'm making sense, though. Great post.

    Greetings from London.

  2. Thanks, it is my work, and yes, I think you're right. I have come across musicians who thought they would be painters (P.J Harvey springs to mind). Maybe life has other plans for us. I always wrote more than I painted and seem to have more of a natural aptitude for it. It's only in the last three years that I've acknowledged this and ploughed real energy into it so it will be interesting to see if it pays off! ;-)