Meditations in an Emergency

Meditations in an Emergency is a book of poetry by American poet Frank O'Hara, first published by Grove Press in 1957. Its title poem was first printed in the November 1954 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.[2]

Meditations in an Emergency
First edition
AuthorFrank O'Hara
PublisherGrove Press
Publication date

The name of the book is purported to derive from English poet John Donne's prose work, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, stemming from a joke between O'Hara and other members of the renowned New York School of poets.[3] Critics have noted the influence of impressionism and abstract expressionism in the collection, with most of the poems detailing the theme of identity and everyday life in New York City.

The book is dedicated to painter Jane Freilicher.[1]


  • To the Harbormaster
  • Poem: "The eager note on my door..."
  • To the Film industry in Crisis
  • Poem: "At night Chinamen jump"
  • Blocks
  • Les Etiquette jaunes
  • Aus einem April
  • River
  • Poem: "There I could never be a boy"
  • On Rachmaninoff's Birthday
  • The Hunter
  • For Grace, After a Party
  • On Looking at "La Grande Jatte," the Czar Wept Anew
  • Romanze, or The Music Students
  • The Three-Penny Opera
  • A Terrestrial Cuckoo
  • Jane Awake
  • A Mexican Guitar
  • Chez Jane
  • Two Variations
  • Ode
  • Invincibility
  • Poem in January
  • Meditations in an Emergency
  • For James Dean
  • Sleeping on the Wing
  • Radio
  • On Seeing Larry Rivers' "Washington Crossing the Delaware" at the Museum of Modern Art
  • For Janice and Kenneth to Voyage
  • Mayakovsky

The book, and references to it, are seen on several occasions in Season 2 of the AMC television drama Mad Men:

  • In season 2, episode 1, "For Those Who Think Young", the book is read by an unknown character in a bar and later by the protagonist, Don Draper. At the end of the episode, a passage from the fourth section of the poem "Mayakovsky" (alludıng to Vladimir Mayakovsky, a prominent poet and playwright of the Russian Futurist movement)[4]
  • In season 2, episode 12, "The Mountain King", Draper, visiting California on business, visits Anna Draper and finds the book he sent on her bookshelf.
  • In season 2, episode 13, "Meditations in an Emergency", which is set at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the episode title itself is taken from O'Hara's book.


  1. O'Hara, Frank (1967). Meditations in an Emergency. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3452-3.
  2. Poetry Foundation. Frank O'Hara: "Meditations in an Emergency" on the website of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, originally printed November 1954. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  4. AMC Television. Episode Guide: Mad Men - Season 2, Episode 1: "For Those Who Think Young". Retrieved on 2013-06-06 from
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