Steve Turtell: Letter to Frank O’Hara

Letter to Frank O’Hara. Number Three in the ReBound Series and winner of the 2010 ReBound Prize. Originally published by P & Q Press in 2000; published in a new second edition with an introduction by Joan Larkin:

“. . . I love Steve Turtell’s poems for their music, their honesty, and their embrace of reality. They are refreshingly direct and unpretentious. I’m moved by their generous humanity, their plainspoken, hard-won truths, and the poet’s deep relishing of his experiences, desired or not. His uncommon craft makes it sound almost simple.”

Cover image by the author.

Published: February 14, 2011 [125 copies]
ISBN-13: 978-0-9829396-5-9
21 pages
$ 7.00

Steve Turtell was born in Brooklyn in 1951. He holds a CUNY-BA in Comparative Religion and an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, where he studied under Allen Ginsberg, was editor of Brooklyn Review, and taught classes in English literature, creative writing and modern European drama. He was Director of Public Programs at the Museum of the City of New York, the South Street Seaport Museum and the New-York Historical Society. His poetry, essays, stories and reviews have appeared in numerous publications. He was a baker for most of his twenties and still makes his own bread. Among the highlights of his misspent youth was a stint as a house electrician for Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, where he ran the lights for sixty performances of Camille. You can follow his current adventures (and see mouth–watering pictures of the weekly loaf) on Facebook.

a sample poem:

Letter to Frank O’Hara

It had been raining for ten years–
just after our vows, too, when the life
of the party shouted “Drop dead.”
What aplomb! All those faithless springs
suddenly worthless. Years of abandonment
counting for nothing. Oh horrors of
enchantment, beauty of truculence.
You can always depend upon the hostility of lovers 
but we, a glamorous, shuddering chorus,
eyes averted, move en pointe past
the confessional’s lurid glow,
that peep-show of self-pity. Really, Mary!

As if our holy yawns don’t prove
we’re simply riddled with purity
and we’ll float softly, silently
as the dreams of inconsolable rhinoceri,
pitiable as the tears of lost seagulls,
sure as Adam’s apple pie, straight to heaven.
The angels’ impatience says we’ve
all prayed for too little and they
can’t wait to scold us. God’s redecorating.
He wants all his darlings back.

Oh, Frank. Have you missed us terribly,
whom you never met? I picture your daily
grand jete over the sun, knowing the moon
never tires of loving you. I long to change
costumes and visit. Let’s see. Blandishments,
pitchforks, foreskins. Well! But then Edward
told me you had the longest he’d ever seen.
My mother loved me so I got to keep mine,
ensuring that I would always be a goy.
Just knowing that I’ve kissed lips that once
kissed yours–but enough. Discretion is 
the better part of careerism. Now there
is only one poet I love to read while dreaming.

_______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______

Purchase Steve’s chapbook here.

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