I am not Frank O’Hara

but sometimes I write poems in my lunch hour. Or, to be more accurate, I muse, jot, fiddle with a poem coming-into-being. Most of my poems have a long gestation. They’re a gradual accretion of words, phrases, images, and a honing and chipping away to get the shape, the movement, that I is buried somewhere deep in my brain. Once or twice a week I hurry out of the office at lunchtime, a fugitive writer, ensconce myself in a chain café and, fuelled by a half-decent latte, briefly plug back into my latest poem or story. I write by hand, often transcribing the latest draft of a poem or the last paragraph of a story in progress before chewing over the next line. The physical act of writing, my hand moving the pen across the page, is my route back into the creative part of my mind. Sometimes I make a small breakthrough, a new phrase or a change of tack; but what’s important is simply to engage with the writing, turn a few things over in my mind, toy with words. Come Friday, when I sit at my desk at home, while it’s rare that the writing flows, it does feel as if I have a head start.

And Frank O’Hara? I’ve known of his Lunch Poems for some time, and been attracted to the idea of these poems written during his lunch break or springing out of his midday walks in New York, before returning to his day job; but it’s only recently I’ve been dipping into a volume of O’Hara’s Selected Poems, which, frustratingly, doesn’t indicate where each poem was first published. But I like what I’m reading. It’s fresh, urban, often discursive; pulsing with energy and humour; inventive without being impenetrable. Sometimes in my lunch hour I read poetry. Which is another, essential way of reconnecting with my writing brain.

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