Nine Poem Excerpts by Frank O’Hara to Start Your Morning

Sammi Bassman


“oh god it’s wonderful

to get out of bed

and drink too much coffee

and smoke too many cigarettes

and love you so much”

–Frank O’Hara


If you’re anything like me, sometimes it takes more than a cold brew to get the day going.  There is something easy about poetry in the morning, just as the words slip through your fingers. Sometimes we don’t make sense of it, and that only lets us appreciate it more. Instead of scrolling through Instagram when you reach for your phone, try skimming through a few poems to inspire the day. And no better way to find mix up the mundane than Frank O’ Hara, himself, the renowned leader of the “New School of Poets”, who offers such a lyrical approach to life’s everyday conundrums.

Here are a few snippets to scroll through:

1. Ave Maria

Mothers of America

                                       let your kids go to the movies!

get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to  

it’s true that fresh air is good for the body

                                                                              but what about the soul  

that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images

and when you grow old as grow old you must

                                                                                they won’t hate you

Elevate the soul, rather than let it rest between crinkled sheets and the smell of detergents. The soul needs Vitamin D too, you know.

2. Sleeping on the Wing

The eyes roll asleep as if turned by the wind

and the lids flutter open slightly like a wing.

The world is an iceberg, so much is invisible!

and was and is, and yet the form, it may be sleeping


Don’t let the day go Titanic on you.

3. Song

I tell you


how I hate disease, it’s like worrying

that comes true

and it simply must not be able to happen


in a world where you are possible

my love

nothing can go wrong for us, tell me

Live life like nothing can go wrong. And when it does, well, try not to worry too much…

4. For Grace, After a Party

You do not always know what I am feeling.

Last night in the warm spring air while I was

blazing my tirade against someone who doesn’t


me, it was love for you that set me



and isn’t it odd? for in rooms full of

strangers my most tender feelings

writhe and

bear the fruit of screaming.

There is perhaps nothing more true than the first line of this poem. Or, perhaps, nothing more false…

5. Jane Awake

The opals hiding your lids

as you sleep, as you ride ponies

mysteriously, spring to bloom

like the blue flowers of autumn

each nine o’clock

Look alive gorgeous, Spring is here and it’s not waiting any longer.

6. Yesterday down at the Canal

You say that everything is very simple and interesting

it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great Russian novel does

i am terribly bored

sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie

other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease of the kidney

god knows it has nothing to do with the heart

nothing to do with people more interesting than myself

“Life, my friends, is boring.”  Boredom is thought to be a sign of intelligence with the monotony of our everyday world. Congratulations on never settling.

7. As Planned

After the first glass of vodka

you can accept just about anything

of life even your own mysteriousness

you think it is nice that a box

of matches is purple and brown and is called

La Petite and comes from Sweden

for they are words that you know and that

is all you know words not their feelings

or what they mean and you write because

you know them not because you understand them

because you don’t you are stupid and lazy

and will never be great but you do

what you know because what else is there?

You know when you write something and it doesn’t come out like it sounded in your head and so you’re left with a statement that bears no truth to who you are or what you believe? Yea. I know that feeling.

8. Lines for the fortune cookies

I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else.


Just as Jackie Kennedy has a baby boy, so will you–even bigger.


You will meet a tall beautiful blonde stranger, and you will not say hello.


You will take a long trip and you will be very happy, though alone.


You will marry the first person who tells you your eyes are like scrambled eggs.


In the beginning there was YOU–there will always be YOU, I guess.


A few moments of confidence to fire you up for the day.

9. Meditations for an Emergency

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over


I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest suntans. I’ll be back, I’ll re-emerge, defeated, from the valley; you don’t want me to go where you go, so I go where you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon, there’s a lot ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in the lock and the knob turns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.