Analysis Of The Poem ' The Harbormaster ' By Frank O ' Hara

985 WordsOct 13, 20144 Pages
“To the Harbormaster”: An Open Letter to God At first glance, it appears as though O’Hara’s poem “To the Harbormaster” is about a man sailing a turbulent sea, but there is far more to examine past the surface level of the poem. O’Hara chooses to use the word “vessel” (14) in the poem. The Oxford English dictionary defines the word “vessel” in multiple ways. One is “any structure designed to float upon and traverse the water for the carriage of persons or goods; a craft or ship of any kind.” It is also defined as “Said of the body, esp. as the receptacle of the soul” and has origins in that context from the bible (OED). In Frank O’Hara’s poem “To the Harbormaster,” the harbormaster is actually a metaphor for God, which can be examined by unpacking the meaning of the word vessel, and illuminates the human experience of grappling with religion. In “To the Harbormaster,” the word “vessel” is meant literally as a ship. He uses nautical imagery all throughout: “ship” (2), “moorings” (3), “tide” (5), “rudder” (8), “hull” (10), “cordage” (10), “reeds” (13), and finally “vessel” (14). In this way, and for the metaphor of someone at sea throughout, at the surface level of the poem, vessel is used to describe a ship. However, when further examining the word vessel as meaning a body or receptacle for the soul, and the biblical origins associated with that meaning, one is able to find several examples to back up an alternate and deeper meaning. In the lines, “To / you I offer my hull and
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