Poet's Choice By Robert Pinsky

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, December 24, 2006

The poet Frank O'Hara (1926-1966) loved New York, and he crowded its speed, insouciance and exhilarating readiness for more of everything into his poetry. He deployed spontaneity of language to lead readers away from the ponderous excesses of close reading and exquisitely ponderous interpretation. His art offers the pleasure of listening as primary.

O'Hara's Christmas poem is as secular as can be -- personal, artfully irreverent and saucy. The poem is also a sincere celebration of the holiday and his city. It is a passionate, good-humored embrace and a love song to Manhattan. The poem is also what it says it is, a loving seasonal greeting to his friend, the abstract expressionist painter Grace Hartigan:

CHRISTMAS CARD TO GRACE HARTIGAN

There's no holly, but there is

the glass and granite towers

and the white stone lions

and the pale violet clouds. And

the great tree of balls in

Rockefeller Plaza is public.

Christmas is green and general

like all great works of the


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