Frankie Cosmos and Frank O’Hara

Frankie Cosmos

You never know who is going to get bitten by the Frank O’Hara bug.

Greta Kline, a sophomore at NYU and the 19-year old daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, is a musician who performs lo-fi indie-folk under the name Frankie Cosmos.

As this piece in the University of Pittsburgh newspaper explains, her newly released first studio album, Zentropy, “warrants a comparison to poet Frank O’Hara, who, of course, is the inspiration for Kline’s use of ‘Frankie’ as a pseudonym. ‘I’m just a normal girl, but my name is Frank,’ she sings on album closer ‘Sad.’ … A poetry student at NYU, Cosmos embodies the city’s literary past with a youthful wit that is rare in any artist — much less one who’s still too young to buy alcohol.”

In a profile and interview posted last month on Pitchfork, Greta Kline/Frankie Cosmos discusses her fascination with O’Hara at length.  The interviewer first sets the scene by mentioning that in Kline’s apartment “a small book of poems by Kline’s spiritual forebear Frank O’Hara rests in clear view on the kitchen table, alongside a chessboard and just underneath a pinned-up Bowie record”:

Pitchfork: Your name “Frankie” references the poet Frank O’Hara. What about his writing resonates with you?

GK: Right when we started dating, I bought Aaron this really big book of Frank O’Hara poems, so he started calling me Frank. I had a weird introduction to Frank O’Hara. I heard an audio clip of “Adieu to Norman, Bonjour to Jean and Jean-Paul”—which starts “It is 12:10 in New York”—on some kid’s website, and I remembered it and wrote it down. I was obsessed with this poem, but I didn’t know who it was by. I never thought to Google it because I don’t understand how computers work; I still don’t have a smartphone.

A year goes by, and this girl I knew from an art class sent me a different O’Hara poem. It immediately reminded me so much of the other one—his voice was so distinct and strong that I recognized it. I finally Googled it and realized the poems were by the same guy, and immediately went out and bought this huge book of Frank O’Hara poems and was obsessed with him and read the entire thing front-to-back when I was 15.

Pitchfork: He takes really fine details from New York City life and incorporates them into his poems in a way that is romantic. I feel like your music does that, too. What do you want your songs to capture about New York life?

GK: All of his poetry was coming from a place of mundane New York life—he wrote Lunch Poems on his lunch break everyday—but there’s so much more there. There’s so much depth to the streets of New York. I’m sounding really pretentious here, but there are a lot of places you can go from just observing everyday life, which he does really well. I was thinking about New York today and realized how much I hate walking around in the winter and how much I dread getting on the train. When I was younger, my view of New York was really wide-eyed and excited. I’ve lived here all my life, but when I was 15 my parents were like, “Yeah, you can go on the subway by yourself, you can do whatever.” Everyday I would get on the train and go somewhere to just walk around. My brother and I were like, “New York is so big! There are so many places we can go!”

My relationship to New York has changed a lot, but I try to preserve that attitude. I feel lucky to live here. A lot of times you walk through the city and don’t notice that you’re in a really beautiful neighborhood, or that you’re passing a beautiful building. It’s nice, as an exercise, to keep aware that you’re in a really lucky place. Writing songs about it is a really useful way for me to love New York more, and stay observing it, and not just zone it out. I’m trying to do what Frank O’Hara did and remind myself that there’s a lot of good stuff. I write about New York for my own mental health.

I have to say: I never thought there would be a reason to mention Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, and Frank O’Hara in the same breath.  But I’m happy there is.  If nothing else, this is another fun example of the continuing and unpredictable spread of O’Hara as an influence on our culture (including, once more, on the world of indie music).

Zentropy seems like a really likable and smart bunch of songs.  You can see the (very positive) Pitchfork review here, and can check it out below:

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