I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world . . .
Frank O’Hara, “Having a Coke with You”
Occasionally, references to poems or poets infiltrate the more popular media of television and film, creating a brief surge in interest among the general population, including many who would not normally turn to poetry as their regular reading genre. For most, the temporary increased interest in the work or literary figure spotlighted on screen does not translate into a continuing devotion to poetry. However, any greater awareness of poetry established in some movie viewers only serves to assist in an overall addition of appreciation for poetry.
In many cases, a traditional poem might be featured in a film, perhaps a sonnet by William Shakespeare or an elegy by W.H. Auden. But book sales and reputations of more modern poets sometimes benefit from placement of their poetry as an element in a movie. Obviously, biographical films about poets—John Keats, Sylvia Plath, or Allen Ginsberg, for example—command more attention and engender new readership. Nevertheless, even a single recitation of a poem or mention of a collection of poems within a plot can initiate interest.
Recently, poetry by Frank O’Hara has been the recipient of such publicity in popular media. His book of poems, Meditations in an Emergency, appeared prominently in the second season of a hit television series, Mad Men, and in Beastly—a new film offering a contemporary version of Beauty and the Beast and premiering this past weekend—O’Hara’s poem, “Having a Coke With You,” plays a central role.
As reported when first introducing this poem at One Poets Note’s in 2008, critic and poet David Lehman regards the presence of O’Hara’s poetry, as exemplified in “Having a Coke with You,” to be “so dazzling, with taste so fine and sensibility so rare and appealing, that it comes as a surprise to investigate and realize that there are depths of meaning in his offhanded poems that seem as disarmingly immediate and perishable as telephone calls.”
Readers are invited to revisit the text of “Having a Coke with You,” accompanied by a 1966 video of Frank O’Hara reading his poem.
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