The manuscript of Frank O’Hara’s poem “In Memory of My Feelings” indicates the time of composition as having occurred between June 27 and July 1, 1956, ostensibly to mark the poet’s thirtieth birthday, and, incidentally, the midpoint of his poetic career—the threshold of maturity, by any counts. At the time of the writing, O’Hara believed he had been born on June 27, 1926, but, in fact, it was later discovered, after the poet’s death, he had been born three months earlier, on March 27.
Totaling 194 lines, the poem is subdivided into five fairly balanced and numbered sections of, respectively, 41, 33, 41, 44, and 35 lines grouped in rather irregular verse paragraphs, which often begin in midpage, following a third, a half, or even three-quarters of the preceding line. This accounts for the jagged, prose-like aspect of the poem, which highlights its rhetorical stance—described by the poet some months later in “Poem Read at Joan Mitchell’s” as “post-anti-esthetic, bland, unpicturesque and William Carlos Williamsian!  Not nineteenth centurynot even Partisan Reviewnewvanguard.”
The poem is dedicated to Grace Hartigan, an artist who at the time was the poet’s lover and chief muse. Her name is gracefully punned in the heart of the fourth section: “Grace/ to be born and live as variously as possible.” The line was fated to become one of the best known in O’Hara’s poetry, since ten years later it was chiseled as...
(The entire section is 460 words.)