The Poetry Project Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

This past Wednesday, the Poetry Project, a New York City-based organization dedicated to promoting, fostering, and inspiring the reading and writing of contemporary poetry, hosted a readingin its entiretyof Frank O’Hara’s iconic, celebrated, and now fifty-year-old Lunch Poems. With the crowd filling the main sanctuary (the headquarters of the Poetry Project are appropriately located in a church), performers such as Edmund Berrigan and The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl each got up and read a single poem to the room’s rapt attention. Greg Ruggiero (editor of the City Lights Open Media series) was there to document it. Here he is in his own words:

There was an enormous buzz in the room before it started. The organizers were angels and their sense of excitement and joy really helped set a welcoming vibe. Once the reading began it seemed that a perfect silence was held without interruption for two hours. Not one cell phone broke the spell. The room was so focused, I was concerned that even the muffled sound of my Nikon flashlessly clicking was going to be a drag. The book itself looks and feels beautiful—everywhere you looked its orange cover winked back at you.

For all of us unlucky enough not to have been there, Greg took a lot of pictures, which are posted below. And the beautiful orange-covered anniversary edition of Lunch Poems is now available for purchase from City Lights as of yesterday.

The crowd gathers.
The crowd gathers.
Guillermo Filice Castro is caught reading.
Guillermo Filice Castro is caught reading.
Erica Hunt opens the reading with “Music.”


Sharon Mesmer reads “Alma.”
Guillermo Filice Castro reads “2 Poems from the Ohara Monogatari.”
Justin Vivian Bond reads “Ave Maria.”
Hettie Jones spoke about her personal, encouraging, pro-feminist encounters with Frank O’Hara.
Tony Towle reads “Naphtha.”
Betsy Fagin reads “Hôtel Particulier.”
The crowd listens.

As an added bonus, here is O’Hara reading “Having a Coke with You” himself:

All the information about our shiny new 50th Anniversary Edition Lunch Poems can be found here. The book features an all-new foreword by John Ashbery and never-before-published correspondence between Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Frank O’Hara, with a special introduction by Ferlinghetti.

The Paris Review recently released some of these letters and covered the book as well.

For more events related to Lunch Poems, visit our author tour page here.

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