Did Frank O’Hara Write ‘Captain Bada’? I Thought So

LUNCH POEMS by Frank O'Hara [City Lights Books]

City Light Books

I see there’s a 50th anniversary edition of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems out in hardcover from City Lights Books. It reminds me of a question I’ve had for years about a poem of O’Hara’s that I’ve never had answered.

Back in 1967, the year after O’Hara died, the New York poet Jim Brodey came knocking on my door in San Francisco and gave me a poem of O’Hara’s — “Captain Bada” — for a little mag I was editing. Brodey said it had never been published. I must’ve asked him how he happened to have the manuscript, but maybe I didn’t because I was under the impression he knew O’Hara. In any event, I loved the poem and published it as a two-page spread in the magazine’s second issue.

In 1971, when The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara came out, I saw that “Captain Bada” wasn’t included. I suppose I should have asked the editor Donald Allen why not — he knew the magazine, and we had a glancing acquaintance. But I simply assumed he had overlooked it. Later the thought dawned on me that Brodey might have faked the manuscript and written the poem himself. If he did, my hat’s off to him. It’s a great piece of work. (Please see Maureen O’Hara’s comment below.)

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  1. Maureen O'Hara says

    If you look at The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, you will see that Frank O’Hara’s poem “Captain Bada” written by him in 1957 is there on page 273 with Donald Allen’s notes on page 540 “Dated May 16, 1957 , in MS 495. The title apparently refers to the play by Jean Vauthier. First published in San Francisco Earthquake I:2 1968.”

  2. says

    Dear Maureen O’Hara — Thanks so much for your comment. I stand corrected. And relieved. Happy, too. I have no idea why I didn’t remember seeing the poem there, except that my memory is obviously faulty.