Monday, March 4, 2013
Biography: Frank O’Hara, Artist & Poet
by M. J. Joachim
Frank O’Hara was born on June 27, 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was raised in Massachusetts. At the age of 15, he studied piano at the New England Conservatory. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 to serve his duty during World War II, and was deployed to the South Pacific and Japan on the Destroyer USS Nicholas.
After the war, O’Hara went to Harvard to study and compose music. A poet in his spare time (perhaps as a hobby), O’Hara left Harvard and his music studies to pursue a degree in English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; he earned a Master degree in 1951. Soon after, he was employed at the Museum of Modern Art, where he began to focus more seriously on his writing.
Much of O’Hara’s work relates to art. He wrote highly acclaimed essays and reviews for paintings and sculptures; he also became one of the most distinguished members of the New York School of Poets, along with many artists who inspired his work, including poets James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch. His relationships with painters like Jackson Pollack and Larry Rivers also inspired his poetry. Sometimes, he actually worked with painters to combine poetry and text.
O’Hara’s life ended abruptly in 1966 while he was on vacation, when he was killed in a sand buggy accident on Fire Island at the age of forty. His work continues to be highly praised and recognized. Some of his most noted titles are: A City in Winter, Meditations in an Emergency, and Lunch Poems.
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Photo credit: Concord Poetry Center, John Phelan, Creative Commons Attribution
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