Why I Am Not A Painter
By Frank O’Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Notes on Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)
Frank O'Hara was a leading member of the New York School of poets, a group that received its name from its association with the abstract-expressionist painters in New York City during the 1950s. He was a serious music student and wished above all to be a concert pianist. While employed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he began to write seriously, and his concept of the poem was greatly influenced by his intimate relationship with modern painters of his time. O'Hara's work is usually conversational and casual in tone. "Why I Am Not a Painter," reads as if he had simply improvised it – not unlike an abstract painting.