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Kirby Olson


Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

It curved industriously along a path. It
was the culmination of Christo &
environmental art à la Smithson; yet was
also iron rails and boxy bldgs. The
Hudson River was a sheen of glass.

As I walked my hands froze. I learned that day of
H.L. Van Brunt’s death. I compared his rural poems
of Okies, to Frank Gehry’s wacky IAC building. As
we walked I thought of my mentor’s last breath.

The grass was sere and daffodils dead.
I saw traffic on the sts. and aves.
The red glitter of brake lights.
Oh, the oceans of pedestrians!
Brunt lived alone and without family. I went for spaghetti with mine in Little Italy.


About the writer:
When Kirby Olson studied with Allen Ginsberg in the 70s, he gave him this poem, as it was the only poem he’d written up to that point.

I have often met the beauty of the living
It was in the magenta sunset.
It was in the hummingbird.
It was a child reaching up to kiss his mother goodnight.

Ginsberg told him to write a big, dirty, sex poem instead. Olson thought Ginsberg was crazy, but it was funny. All of Olson’s poems in some way are about family, but now more about his own children rather than his parents. He still thinks that true beauty can only happen inside of families. Olson’s poems have been in Poetry East, Partisan Review, and a hundred others. Explore of download Kirby Olson’s 2022 pamphlet Poems for Families available now from O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press. Explore Kirby Olson’s offering Poems for Families in the O:JA&L 2022 Pamphlet Series.

Image: Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Oil on canvas. 81.6 x 121.2 inches. 1884. Public domain.

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