Having a Coke with You

By Frank O’Hara


“Having a Coke with You” is one of Frank O’Hara’s most cherished poems, radiating warmth and a palpable sense of intimacy. Written in the 1960s, this poem is a prime example of O’Hara’s style within the New York School of poetry, which is known for its vivid, conversational and often whimsical tone. Frank O’Hara, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, often infused his poetry with references to art, personal relationships, and the mundane moments of everyday life, turning them into something extraordinary.

“Having a Coke with You” is particularly notable for its candid and spontaneous style, reflecting O’Hara’s thoughts on love and the joy found in simply sharing a moment with someone special. As we explore this poem, we’ll uncover the layers of meaning and the poetic devices that make it so engaging and endearing. 😊

Meaning of Having a Coke with You

Opening Section

“Having a Coke with You” opens with a light and engaging tone, setting the scene for a personal narrative that feels both intimate and universal. O’Hara starts with the lines:

Having a Coke with You is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne

This opening lays the groundwork for comparing the simple joy of having a Coke with someone the speaker loves to traveling through exotic locations. It immediately sets a tone of personal preference and unique perspective on what makes a moment truly valuable.

Mid Section

As the poem progresses, the speaker delves deeper into the nuances of their relationship and the personal attributes that make their companion special. The middle section of the poem highlights the casual yet profound connection they share, often juxtaposing it against grander but less impactful experiences:

partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian

Here, O’Hara uses a cultural reference to St. Sebastian, playfully suggesting that the person he is with outshines traditional icons of beauty and martyrdom. This section mixes personal admiration with a touch of humor and cultural commentary.

Concluding Section

The poem concludes with a reflective and tender sentiment, emphasizing the everyday moments that define true happiness and contentment:

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint

This conclusion underscores the idea that real life, with its simple, shared experiences like having a Coke, is more vivid and meaningful than even the finest art. It’s a poignant reminder of the power of presence and companionship over material or aesthetic pursuits.

In-depth Analysis

Dissecting each stanza and analyzing the literary techniques, syntax, diction, and figurative language in “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara:

Stanza One

Literary Techniques: The poem opens with a direct and conversational tone, characteristic of O’Hara’s style. The use of enjambment, where sentences and phrases flow beyond the line breaks, creates a sense of spontaneity and natural speech. — Syntax: The syntax is simple and straightforward, enhancing the conversational quality of the poem. — Diction: O’Hara’s choice of place names and the informal act of “Having a Coke” juxtapose high culture and ordinary life, emphasizing the value found in simple pleasures. — Figurative Language: Metaphor is used effectively to compare the joy of companionship with traveling to glamorous European cities, elevating the mundane to the extraordinary.

Stanza Two

Literary Techniques: Imagery is rich in this section, with visual references to art and personal attire (the “orange shirt”). — Syntax: The use of commas and pauses mirrors natural speech patterns, making the poem feel like one side of a conversation. — Diction: The casual mention of an “orange shirt” alongside cultural icons adds a personal and intimate layer to the poem. — Figurative Language: Simile and allusion are used when comparing the companion to “a better happier St. Sebastian,” intertwining personal sentiment with cultural references.

Stanza Three

Literary Techniques: This section uses contrast effectively, comparing the vivid reality of the person’s company to the abstract and impersonal nature of art exhibits. — Syntax: Shorter phrases and a rhetorical question enhance the reflective quality of this section. — Diction: Words like “just paint” emphasize the theme of authenticity versus artificiality. — Figurative Language: The use of paradox in describing the art show as having “no faces in it at all, just paint” highlights the theme of real versus superficial.

Poetic Devices used in Having a Coke with You

Device NameExample from the Poem
Metaphor“Having a Coke with You is even more fun than going to San Sebastian” – compares sharing a Coke to traveling, suggesting deep personal joy.
Simile“in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian” – compares the companion to a saint, highlighting their importance and beauty.
AllusionReference to St. Sebastian and various travel destinations enriches the cultural layer of the poem.
EnjambmentFrequent in the poem to maintain a conversational and fluid tone.
Imagery“in the warm New York 4 o’clock light” – evokes a specific visual and sensory experience.
PersonificationNot explicitly used, but the personification of the city and moments can be inferred.
HyperboleExaggerating the pleasure of ‘having a Coke’ over visiting famous places emphasizes emotional significance.
IronyThe ironic twist that simple moments outshine more traditionally ‘significant’ experiences.
SymbolismThe Coke symbolizes mundane yet profound experiences of connection and joy.
JuxtapositionContrast between high culture (art, European cities) and simple pleasures (having a Coke).

Having a Coke with You – FAQs

Bold: What is the theme of “Having a Coke with You”? The main theme of the poem is the beauty and significance found in ordinary moments. Frank O’Hara celebrates the joy and intimacy of sharing a simple, everyday activity with someone he loves, suggesting that these moments can be more fulfilling than culturally significant or exotic experiences.

Bold: How does Frank O’Hara use imagery in the poem? O’Hara employs vivid imagery to draw comparisons between everyday experiences and grand cultural references. For example, he contrasts having a Coke with a loved one to visiting famous European cities or seeing art exhibits, highlighting the personal significance and sensory pleasures of the former over the latter.

Bold: Why does Frank O’Hara mention specific places and art references in the poem? The mention of specific places and art references serves to juxtapose the grandiosity and prestige of world travel and high art with the simple, yet profound act of “Having a Coke with You.” This contrast emphasizes the poem’s theme that true happiness and beauty are found in personal, everyday interactions.

Bold: What poetic techniques does O’Hara use to convey his message? O’Hara uses a range of poetic techniques including enjambment, metaphor, simile, and allusion. These techniques help to maintain a conversational tone while weaving together cultural references and personal sentiments, creating a layered and engaging narrative.

Bold: What is the significance of the orange shirt in the poem? The orange shirt worn by O’Hara’s companion is significant because it adds a vivid visual detail that captures attention and symbolizes warmth and happiness. It also helps personalize and visualize the loved one, making the depiction more intimate and relatable.

Having a Coke with You Study Guide

Exercise: Identify and list all the poetic devices used in the following verse of “Having a Coke with You”:

“and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint

I look

at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world”


  1. Enjambment – The continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line.
  2. Imagery – “just paint” evokes a visual contrast between art and the person’s presence.
  3. Juxtaposition – The contrast between the “no faces” in art and the preferable sight of the person.
  4. Hyperbole – Exaggerating the speaker’s preference for looking at the person over any art.

This exercise encourages students to engage closely with the text, identifying how poetic devices are used to enhance the poem’s themes and emotions.