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How Poet Frank O’Hara Taught Us to Be Gay

Frank O'HaraRecently G(&)LIT (the new gay literary tumblr for The GLR) was excited to get a review copy of Poems Retrieved: Frank O’Hara. So, this article, which nominates O’Hara as one of the foundational writers who teach us what “gay” might mean, was of much interest.

Writes the article’s author: “O’Hara’s queerness has always been there to see but it was consistently obstructed either by critics, his friends, or in a few cases, himself. While Marjorie Perloff was working on a study of his poetry, she reported that when ‘I referred to Joe Lesueur as Frank’s lover, Donald Allen suggested tactfully that I use the word “friend” instead.’ Sounds like Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle! But like a fat cartoon bear hiding behind a birch tree, it was plainly there to see.” This bit about Don Allen (editor of the seminal New American Poetry anthology) was new to me–and disappointing. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting moment in gay literary history.

The author also writes: “As O’Hara once commented to his roommate and sometimes lover, Joe Lesueur, homosexuality wasn’t just about sex, it was about his love of the freedoms that went with it. O’Hara seized on this and sought out what he wanted when he wanted it.”

Click the link to see what poems the author noted and the case he makes for a unique brand of camp he finds in O’Hara’s poems. Do you think O’Hara belongs in this pantheon of foundational gay tutors? Who else is neglected?

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