In Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Why I am Not a Painter” he compares himself, a poet, to his friend, an artist named Mike Goldberg. O’Hara compares Goldberg’s techniques as an artist to his own poetic techniques.
When asked by O’Hara why he has sardines in his painting, Goldberg replied that he put it in his painting because “it needed something there” (9) but then a few lines later Goldberg takes it out since he though “It was too much” (16). In the end though, the painting is named sardines even though there are no sardines in it. Goldberg paints and then paints over it; he comes up with ideas to fill space that then may be later rejected. Though there are no sardines in it his painting is still called sardines because of the rejected space filler.
O’Hara compares Goldberg’s creative process to his own. He explains how he starts off with an idea and after time his idea develops; he may write a whole poem based on an idea never actually mentioned by name in the poem. O’Hara tells us how “One day I am thinking of/ a color: orange” and he then uses this idea, the idea of orange, to come up with words, then lines, and soon pages (17-18).
Goldberg appears to paint and then come up with the meaning behind it. He paints sardines to fill space and then rejects that whole painting but the sardines seem to inspire him to name his new panting sardines after the original painting. This is in contrast to O’Hara who says he first starts off with an idea and then builds on it using his original idea to take him all the way through, though he may not even mention the original idea by name at all.
- Why do you think that Goldberg named his painting sardines after the rejected sardines?
- Do you think that O’Hara is saying that his way of writing poetry is better than Goldberg’s method of painting or do you think he thinks they are equal but different?