Frank O'Hara

Frank O'Hara

1926 - 1966

Frank O'Hara's poetry has been set to music by American composers such as Christopher Berg, Morton Feldman, Lukas Foss, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Ned Rorem.

Photo: Frank O'Hara, from the Poetry Foundation website


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Frank O'Hara grew up in Massachusetts and was a musician before he was a poet. He studied piano at the New England Conservatory from 1941 to 1944 and then served in World War II. After the war, O'Hara attended Harvard College, beginning his studies in music.

During his Harvard years, O'Hara became more interested in poetry, though he still loved music and especially contemporary music. He began writing poetry, became friends with John Ashbery, and started publishing his work in the Harvard Advocate. Though he still loved music (and especially contemporary music), O'Hara finished a degree in English at Harvard. After earning a Master of Arts at the University of Michigan, O'Hara moved to New York City.

New York became central to O'Hara's poetry. O'Hara took a job at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and began writing prolifically. He became an important figure in the New York School of poets after his first volume of poetry, A City in Winter (1952), was published. Some of his other famous volumes of poetry include Meditations in an Emergency (1956) and Lunch Poems (1964).

O'Hara was friends with many painters, including Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock. He died in a tragic sand buggy accident at the age of 40.

--Christie Finn Source: Frank O'Hara's entry in

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