Frank O’Hara’s remarkably inventive and characteristically humorous “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” is an eighty-three-line poem written in 1958 but first published posthumously in 1968 and widely anthologized since. In keeping with the idea of a true testimony, the persona is identified as the poet O’Hara himself.
The poem begins (in the first thirteen lines) quite simply but dramatically, with the poet awakened by the sun—who is annoyed because he (O’Hara assigns the sun a masculine gender) has had difficulty awakening O’Hara. The poet attempts to apologize in lines 14-26. He is a guest at the beach house of Hal Fondren, a close friend since college days, and stayed up late the night before talking with his host. This excuse allows the sun to explain why he wants to speak with the poet. Lines 27-56 constitute the sun’s primary message, while lines 58-76 represent important advice offered as a sort of valediction, or farewell message. Lines 77-83 function as an envoy or coda, allowing the sun to exit the stage and the poet to go back to sleep.
“A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” depends primarily upon whimsical personification for its effects. For example, the sun is described as “petulant” when he compares O’Hara’s lackadaisical attitude to the startled attentiveness he received when he last visited a poet, the 1920’s Russian avant-garde writer Vladimir Mayakovsky. This...
(The entire section is 423 words.)