‘Lunch Poems’ Turns 50
Two years ago, the WNYC radio host Leonard Lopate asked his listeners to vote for 10 objects that best told the story of New York. (The Greek coffee cup and the subway token were Numbers 1 and 2, respectively.) The only work of art to make the list was Frank O’Hara’s collection “Lunch Poems.” The San Francisco-based City Lights published a 50th anniversary edition of the book earlier this month. It contains a preface by John Ashbery as well as reproductions of letters between O’Hara and the publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is now 95.
On Sept. 25, 1963, O’Hara sent Ferlinghetti the poems, some of which had been in the works for a decade. He wrote: “I hope you realize that the long delay does not indicate any lack of gratefulness for your interest, which I have appreciated enormously through all my various doubt-seasons.” In another letter nearly a year later, he joked about the book’s future: “I like the contract a lot and am very cheered by the movie clause — if Terry Southern gets interested tell him he doesn’t have to stick to the plot at all, just send green.”