Lunch Poems was easily my favourite text of 1st year. I fell deeply in love with O’Hara and am married to his poems in my heart. I’m not a weirdo. Reading poetry is very different to reading a novel, and this often puts students off but if you stick with it the pay off is great and you’ll never want to read anything but poetry again (except for what’s on your reading list of course). The first thing to do with Lunch Poems is to give it a kiss because it’s such a sexy little book. If you don’t feel these urges to begin with then, trust me, you will by the time you’re done (I reckon). Then just read through them all in one go. Don’t worry about “getting” them or understanding all the references, because there are loads and you can look stuff up later, just read them. Get a feel for the language by reading aloud. Take your time, but not so much time that you get bogged down by it. Get to the end of the book, then start again. You may take a short refreshment break if you want. There are all sorts of myths and straight up LIES about poetry going around and I encourage you to forget them. You don’t need to feel things. You don’t have to understand everything. You don’t need to get to the end of a poem and discover the meaning of life or even the meaning of the poem. You just need to listen to the language and your tutor will help you with thinking about form and all the technical stuff (though I’d give a shout out to The Poetry Foundation which has lots of great and helpful resources including this glossary of poetic terms http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms). If you’ve started reading and don’t believe me about how great these poems are then you’ve obviously not read these lines yet:
‘You’ll never be mentally sober’
‘Once I destroyed a man’s idea of himself to have him’
‘Across the street there is a house under construction/abandoned to the rain. Secretly, I shall go to work on it’
‘you are of me, that’s what/and that’s the meaning of fertility/hard and moist and moaning’
‘I’ve never felt so wide awake/I seemed to be wearing tights entwined with your legs’
I could go on but just one more that you might be able to relate to after reading this:
‘I am terribly bored/sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie/other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease/of the kidney’.
If you can locate all of these quotes in the collection and send me your own personal favourites then you’ll win the following prize: my approval (I know, I’m too generous).
Also, if you ever want a break from reading, another fun Lunch Poems-related-thing to do is paint your nails in its honour:
-Katie and T.E.A