The Experience Outside of Portraits
Sometimes life cannot be fully described in portraits, statues, and pieces of art. In the poem “Having a Coke with You,” the author Frank O’hara suggests that the reader should look for the full experience of life by finding someone to love. O’hara creates this meaning by his descriptive diction, comparisons, and making connections with artists and pieces of art in the world.
O’hara uses descriptive diction to describe speaker’s love for his significant other to show the experience the speaker have by being with her. In the first stanza, the speaker describes why he would rather have a coke with his significant other rather than traveling to interesting cities in the world. O’hara uses words that describe the girl in a positive and bright way. The speaker says that part of the reason he would rather spend time with her rather than traveling is “because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian.”(Line 3) The use of the word “orange” and “happier” makes the reader see that the girl allows the speaker to have a brighter day just by being with her. The speaker describes his love as someone who “move so beautifully,” (Line 17) which gives the image of graceful and beautiful woman. The choice of words to describes the speaker’s love as a breath of fresh air that brightens the speaker’s life.
O’hara also uses comparisons between the pieces of art to the speaker’s love to show what affect the girl can give to the speaker, which the piece of art cannot. The speaker describes “the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint.” (Line 11) Pieces of arts like portraits cannot give the same affect as a real human. O’hara shows the comparison between the girl and portraits that the speaker calls “paint” to show that the speaker love is much more than a piece of art. O’hara included in his poem how the woman “move so beautifully,” (Line 17) which is something that statues cannot do. O’hara creates comparisons between the still and lifeless pieces of art that are in the end “just paint,” to the lively and real human that gives much more to the speaker than piece of art could do.
Lastly, O’hara makes connections to pieces of art to show the missing experience that the piece of art gives. O’hara includes pieces of art such as the “Nude Descending a Staircase” or the “Horseman” which is lacking the human image in pieces of art. The piece of art cannot give the experience that another human can give. The “single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo” (Line 19) cannot “wow” the speaker anymore compared to his significant other. O’hara also picks fun at the ability of the Impressionists when they don’t have the “right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank” (Line 21). When these pieces of art lack the human image it needs, it is “cheated of some marvelous experience.” (Line 24) Using examples of art that is missing the human image is missing an experience that is important to life.
Frank O’hara gives the message in the poem that people should fully experience life by finding love with another person. He uses the diction of bright and happy images to describe the speakers love and her ability to brighten his day by just simply drinking Coke with him. O’hara also compared the speaker’s significant other to art to show that the speaker’s love is able to give an experience that art cannot give. Lastly, O’hara describes pieces of art that lack the human image and because of that, the art is lacking something incredible. In the end, without being in love with someone, people are lacking an amazing experience that cannot be painted.