Sunday, July 29, 2012

Joan Mitchell's Response to Frank O'Hara's Poem

Joan Mitchell (February 12, 1925 – October 30, 1992) painted "To the Harbormaster" in 1957 as a tribute to Frank O'Hara's poem. Apparently, there are still a few nuts who think his poem's about the sea.

© Estate of Joan Mitchell

To the Harbormaster

I wanted to be sure to reach you;

though my ship was on the way it got caught

in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks, it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.


  1. Hi. I stumbled upon this page while searching for something. In FOH's "Poem Read at Joan Mitchell's, toward the end of the poem, he mentions a "John, and the nuptial quality / of his verses (he is always marrying the whole world." I wonder if you can ascertain who John is; is it John Ashbery or someone else named John. Please advise.

  2. It's a good guess. There's no other "John" in his circle I know of. Here's more