Study Guide

A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island

by Frank O’Hara

A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island Themes

Themes and Meanings (Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

O’Hara has been admired as an idiosyncratic and inventive poet, yet his work also contains a sometimes satirical awareness of traditional poetic conventions. On one level, “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” echoes the praise of nonconformity found in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay “Self-Reliance” (1841), but the poem also has additional resonances.

Because O’Hara carefully dated his manuscripts, it is clear that this poem continues to explore concerns recorded in “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets,” written the day before. Both poems argue that poets may be unappreciated and even disparaged by their fellow citizens; yet they can expect to be praised by future generations if they are brave enough to persist in telling the truth about life as they understand and experience it. To be a poet, in O’Hara’s view, is to accept a difficult but vitally important vocation. While much of “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” seems to say that this poetic vocation, or “calling,” is ultimately rewarding, the final lines somewhat ominously suggest that reward is beside the point, that the poet is actually the servant of unspecified forces in the universe that he cannot fully identify yet must obey.

“A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” seems to confirm what many poets before O’Hara have asserted: that the poet is, in fact, a medium through which cosmic forces...

(The entire section is 462 words.)