Fortune Cookies, Frank O’Hara and a Poetry Prompt

Frank O'Hara postcard [scan]
Frank O’Hara postcard (Photo credit: m kasahara)

I’ve shared with you in two recent posts a couple of my own fortune cookie poems, so I thought it would be fun today to look at what Frank O’Hara, one of my favorite poets of the “New York School,” did with his cookies. I created an audio-visual interpretation that kept me happily up all night, doing research and compiling images. The audio recording was the easy part.

Before we get to video though I want to share with  you a couple of other fortune cookie treasures I found this week. I said the other day that fortune cookies are no longer what they are cracked up to be, but here is an article from the Huffington Post that brings you 29 entertaining and creative fortunes, including the Yoda one I found recently. I also found this article at Sadie Bakes which includes an advertising video that just cracked me up.

And why let Frank and I have all the fun? If you’re looking for something to stir your creative juices, why not crack open a cookie, or a bunch of cookies of your own, and see what happens? You could make a found poem out of fortunes you save up, or pattern it after Frank’s poem like Courtney Preiss did. You might construct your own cookie response poem, like my own that I linked to above, or you could relay a particular scene from your own history with fortune cookies. You could also try this fortune writing exercise from a pretty slick writing teacher. The pdf also has a great little condensed history of the practice of making fortune cookies.

I cannot find the exact date the Frank O’Hara’s poem when was published, or where, or if it shows up in any of his books, but the date 1962 seems to stick in my head for some reason. It was a habit of O’Hara’s to include oodles of references to the New York City arts and entertainment culture of his day. This poem is no exception, but instead of providing you links and explanations, I’m just going to give you the video of my reading, followed by the text. I think it’ll be more fun for you to just Google whatever intrigues or confuses you, rather than for me to clutter up this post with references. Much of the meaning can be gleaned from context, and I tried to make some of that more clear with the images in the video.

It has been a while since I’ve done one of these productions, and though I easily forget how many hours can go into producing a three-minute clip, it really was a lot of fun to do. I hope you like it.

Lines for the Fortune Cookies by Frank O’Hara

I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else.

Just as Jackie Kennedy has a baby boy, so will you–even bigger.

You will meet a tall beautiful blonde stranger, and you will not say hello.

You will take a long trip and you will be very happy, though alone.

You will marry the first person who tells you your eyes are like scrambled eggs.

In the beginning there was YOU–there will always be YOU, I guess.

You will write a great play and it will run for three performances.

Please phone The Village Voice immediately: they want to interview you.

Roger L. Stevens and Kermit Bloomgarden have their eyes on you.

Relax a little; one of your most celebrated nervous tics will be your undoing.

Your first volume of poetry will be published as soon as you finish it.

You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you’re legendary!

Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.

You will eat cake.

Who do you think you are, anyway? Jo Van Fleet?

You think your life is like Pirandello, but it’s really like O’Neill.

A few dance lessons with James Waring and who knows? Maybe something will happen.

That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg.

I realize you’ve lived in France, but that doesn’t mean you know EVERYTHING!

You should wear white more often–it becomes you.

The next person to speak to you will have a very intriguing proposal to make.

A lot of people in this room wish they were you.

Have you been to Mike Goldberg’s show? Al Leslie’s? Lee Krasner’s?

At times, your disinterestedness may seem insincere, to strangers.

Now that the election’s over, what are you going to do with yourself?

You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.

You eat meat. Why do you eat meat?

Beyond the horizon there is a vale of gloom.

You too could be Premier of France, if only… if only…

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I am glad I was drawn back here! You are a special type of person. VERY interesting


    1. sonofwalt says:

      What a sweet compliment. Thank you!


  2. slpmartin says:

    Now if one my favorite artist loves your posts what am I to say but…I agree. 🙂


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Wow. I am honored. Thank you so much, Charles.


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