This painting by Modernist Artist, Michael Goldberg inspired one of my favorite modernist poets, Frank O’Hara to write ‘Why I am not a Painter’.
The artist started off inspired by some sardines but as the painting changed it came to resemble something entirely different with only the word ‘SARDINES’ remaining. Whilst the resulting poem, is not my favorite O’Hara piece, I do love this idea of layers and fluidity of meaning during the creative process.
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.