Watching Mad Men for the first time tonight, I was surprised to see ad man Don Draper reading the paperback edition of Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency (1957). Don picks up a copy after seeing someone reading the book in a bar.
Meditations was published in a very limited run: 90 hardcover and 900 paperback copies. Brad Gooch's O'Hara biography A City Poet notes that by 1960 the book was out of print. This episode of Mad Men focuses on Valentine's Day, 1962 (the night of A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy). How does Don Draper get hold of this book so readily? Well, it's television.
At the end of the episode, Don reads aloud the fourth (last) section of "Mayakovsky," the last poem in Meditations:
Now I am quietly waiting forIs O'Hara's poem charting this character's future? Tune in next week.
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
["Mayakovsky" is available in O'Hara's Collected Poems (1971), in two editions of Selected Poems (1974, 2008), and in the reissued Meditations in an Emergency (1996).]
Frank O'Hara and Mad Men again
Mad Men and Frank O'Hara (not again)
Violet candy and Mad Men