Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You,” Illustrated by Nathan Gelgud

When Random House’s Biographile blog asked the illustrator Nathan Gelgud to contribute something for National Poetry Month, he said “I immediately knew what poet I’d want to cover. Frank O’Hara’s 1964 book, Lunch Poemscould not have had a bigger impact on me than when I picked it up fifteen years ago. Like lots of young men my age, I was in the Poetry section because I was interested in the Beats. Lunch Poems practically jumped off the shelf at me: It was familiar as one of the City Lights Pocket Poets Series, with its immediately recognizable cover design made so popular by Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. But it was also different, bright orange and blue, unlike the more familiar black-and-white covers I knew.”

Gelgud chose to illustrate O’Hara’s much-beloved poem “Having a Coke with You,” his favorite O’Hara poem.  It “seemed like the clear choice for an illustrated piece,” Gelgud explains, “because it’s packed with concrete images and objects: namely, the things that aren’t quite as good as having a Coke with a loved one…O’Hara’s not just listing a bunch of nice things and saying ‘you’re even better than these.’ He’s capturing what it’s like to fall in love with someone and to start prioritizing the new romance over things you always thought were so important. In this case, it’s art … As is often the case with O’Hara, he seems to have simply sat down at a kitchen table to make some notes about it, and written one of the most perfect summaries of falling in love ever put down.”

Here is Gelgud’s charming illustration of O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You”:

You can find out more about Nathan Gelgud and his work here.

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