cover image Blue Collar Holiday: &, a Valentine to Frank O'Hara

Blue Collar Holiday: &, a Valentine to Frank O'Hara

Jeni Olin. Hanging Loose Press, $16 (72pp) ISBN 978-1-931236-49-2

The improvisatory energies of downtown Manhattan mix with the volatility of youth in Olin's entertaining two-part debut. Part one compiles 28 chattily lyrical poems, many of them with comic or topical titles (""Tom Brokaw,"" ""The World Was Naughty Last Night""). Several respond to color prints, drawings or paintings (all reproduced) by the eminent New York artist Larry Rivers, with whom Olin collaborated before his death in 2002. Olin's free verse switches easily between sarcasm and joy, registering quick changes in her adopted city: ""On a clear day you can see forever-/ At Lenscrafters you can be fitted in about an hour."" Olin elsewhere jokes about her own non sequiturs, flexing her line and playing the alert reader much as a fisherman might play trout: ""Anything I do will be an abuse of somebody's aesthetics,"" she declares. These outbursts and confidences (and Manhattan details) show the influence of Frank O'Hara, himself a friend of Rivers decades ago; O'Hara's presence becomes perhaps too explicit in part two, ""A Valentine for Frank O'Hara,"" which incorporates swaths of O'Hara's own verse.