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Frank O'Hara Biography

(1926–66), A City Winter and Other Poems, Second Avenue, Odes, Lunch Poems

American poet, born in Baltimore, educated at the New England Conservatory of Music, Harvard, and the University of Michigan. He lived mostly in New York City, and was one of the leading figures of the New York School of Poets, which included John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, Ted Berrigan, and James Schuyler. An art critic and professional curator, O'Hara worked for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and was responsible for major exhibitions of the Abstract Expressionist painters, especially Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock. He wrote plays for the avantgarde theatre, and worked as playwright in residence at the Poet's Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he had helped to found whilst at Harvard. His books of poems are A City Winter and Other Poems (1952), Second Avenue (1960), Odes (1960), Lunch Poems (1964), Love Poems: Tentative Title (1965), In Memory of My Feelings (1967), The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1971), and Poems Retrieved (1977). His Art-Chronicles 1954–66 appeared in 1974, and Selected Plays in 1978. O'Hara was an accomplished commentator on the New York art scene when he was killed in a bizarre accident at the age of 40, run over by a beach taxi. As a poet he repudiated the aesthetic conventions of late romanticism, high modernism, and the competing contemporary schools of confessionalism and Charles Olson's projectivism. His manifesto ‘Personism’ argues his belief in poetry as a spontaneous product, responsive to change, alert to the electrical magnetism of New York city life, nourished by the surface experience of objects and events. O'Hara celebrated the accidental, the contingent, and the ordinary, and often took simple social occasions as the instigation of his poems, as Lunch Poems suggests. At his best he catches the sense of being at the lived moment with real power, in celebration and in lament, as in his famous elegy for Billie Holiday, ‘The Day Lady Died’.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Joseph O'Connor Biography to Cynthia Ozick Biography