[Most of Mayakovsky’s works consist of political and revolutionary poems-as-tracts.] What remains are his satiric plays and his lyrics on the themes that were central to Mayakovsky’s life: a man’s longing for love and his desolation in a hostile and inhuman world; his yearning for the absolutes of human experience and his rage at his impotent self.
Mayakovsky’s life was guided by an almost inescapable sadness, one that for him was as inescapable as the dune buggy that ran over Frank O’Hara on Fire Island. (It is important to note two-thirds of O’Hara’s work is not devoted to political tracts). (And also that Mayakovsky killed himself and O’Hara died of injuries sustained from being hit by a dune buggy while idly standing by a busted jeep in the middle of the night on an island.) But here too is a point where they differ.
Mayakovsky had a need to be consumed, to be swallowed whole by something greater. For most of his life, this need was consumed by the revolution, and once the revolution became the party, then it was the party; and whenever it wasn’t the party, it was love; and when it was love, it was an all-consuming tragic obsession, a “yearning for the absolutes of human experience.”
Frank O’Hara had a need for fluidity, a need to be able to walk away. It’s not so much that he went from lover to lover, but that even in his breakup poems, even when he screams his head off in “A Rant”, after naming all the things he isn’t going to take anymore, he calls out for the lover to come back, “for a minute!/ You left your new shoes. And the/ coffee pot’s yours!” There were no/ footsteps. Wow! What a relief!” Even when he gives all the reasons in the world to be rid of someone, he still calls them back; and even when he calls them back, he still hopes that they never come, that they never hear him, that the world will continue to turn, and that O’Hara can once more feel “[himself] again.”
For Mayakovsky and O’Hara, interactions with the arts were a full immersion experience. They exchanged ideas with painters, dancers and actors throughout their careers. Mayakovsky in fact went to art school and spent most of his life designing posters and slogans for the party, while O’Hara spent his life thinking: “I would rather be/ a painter, but I am not.” These lines are from the poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” where he goes on to talk about how confused he was by his friend Michael Goldberg’s method of painting, and then recounts the methods used to write his poem (or twelve-poems-in-one-poem) “Oranges,” and the similarities that occur within these two methods.
Kazimir Malevich designed the set for Mayakovsky’s play “Mystery Bouffe.” Malevich was a Russian painter and founder of the Suprematism movement, and wrote: “I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.” His work has often been understood in terms of a negation of realism (due to his obsessions with monochromatic works and geometric figures), but it can more readily be described in terms of a need to be consumed by something greater than oneself. In Malevich’s case, this meant the one image and the one color. Suprematism stood for holding true above all else: the giving of oneself over to that which is inside and doing so wholeheartedly. When there was only night within him, Malevich painted the Black Square, which is a large black square on a white field. And while Mayakovsky’s work may more readily be compared to that of the Futurist artist Aleksandr Rodchenko (with whom he worked as a poster designer), it is the need to be consumed by something greater than us that indeed exists in all of Mayakovsky’s work. And in the end his life was consumed by his inability to internalize the irreconcilable difference between his need to be consumed with his need to assert his ego and place in history. His friend Boris Pasternak wrote: “Mayakovsky shot himself out of pride because he had condemned something in himself... with which his self-respect could not be reconciled.”
O’Hara had a long and well-documented relationship with the majority of the artists working in New York during the 1950’s and 60’s, particularly Willem De Kooning and Larry Rivers. However, it is his relationship with Jasper Johns is the most interesting in terms of a painter whose will reflect back to certain aspects of O’Hara. In 1961, Johns painted In Memory of My Feelings – Frank O’Hara. It was also in this year that he made Painting Bitten by a Man (which is exactly what it sounds like: a canvas covered in encaustic and bitten by a man and mounted in an old type plate), Water Freezes, Liar, and No. This period represents Johns’s need to internalize and organize the gut; to take his resounding emotions of sadness (which are evident in the titles: the paintings are called No, Liar, Painting Bitten by a Man and In Memory of My Feelings) and to lay them out and organize them into ways of dealing. And while Robert Rauschenberg might be easier to compare with O’Hara, as the two of them were constantly turning out material, it is this need to organize rather than embrace our emotions that seems so present in Johns’s work, and connects so well to these aspects of O’Hara’s. When Johns encounters sadness he works through it. He takes these gut emotions and finds a way, through his art, to organize and document his pain and sadness. His work seems to, in this case, be a proponent of the notion that by giving voice to a thought we are letting it out of ourselves and into the world. In Painting Bitten by a Man, Johns gives us a painting bitten by a man. It is a raw and visceral expression of pain and frustration, but at the same time it is an incredibly controlled action. Johns had to wait until the wax was hot enough to take the imprint of his teeth, but not so hot as to burn him, or to continue melting on until the canvas was one even surface. In order to express this pain he had to wait, and he had to think. He, much like the narrator in “Mayakovsky,” had to find a way to be himself again.
the paper is called
INTERNALIZING THE DIFFERENCE
Frank O’Hara’s internalization of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poetics, and the
difference between them.
and it's in chicago which is why the quotes don't seem to be cited because they are footnotes.