Frank O’Hara is Everywhere, Even the Title of Emma Jane Unsworth’s New Novel

Thanks entirely to the clout of Mad Men, the once-forgotten poet Frank O’Hara seems to be everywhere these days, no longer languishing in “the bottom drawer of cultural obscurity.”  (I’m just kidding — I don’t really think that!).

Things have gotten so out of hand that O’Hara is even cropping up in the titles of new British novels.  As a review in this weekend’s Financial Times observes:

“Emma Jane Unsworth’s comically bibulous second novel, Animals, takes its title from a Frank O’Hara poem that reflects on the joyously boozy life led by two friends before the responsibilities of adulthood set in.”

Animals” is an early, not particularly well-known O’Hara poem, from 1950:

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when were were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

In an interview she gave in April, Unsworth discusses the title and the O’Hara connection:

“Unsworth explains the thinking behind her second novel’s name, which manages to sum up in one word the story of Tyler and Laura, who even describe themselves at one point as ‘savages’. ‘It was called The Rogue the whole time I was writing it, and I was incredibly attached to that title in a snowblind sort of way. Then the brilliant publishing director at Canongate, Francis Bickmore, reminded me of the Frank O’Hara poem ‘Animals,’ which was so poignant in terms of what I’d been writing about that I instantly thought, ‘That’s my title!'”

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