Frank O’Hara, The Thoroughly Modern Poet
April is National Poetry Month, and Readers+Writers Journal will be celebrating with a series of poems, graphics, and information about poets.
Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) was a leader in the New York School of poetry that flourished in the middle of the 20th century and that embraced modernism in all its forms. Poets in the New York School were influenced by design and visual arts, and vice versa. O’Hara used slang, frequent urban references and irony – all hallmarks of the New York School. His relationships with Abstract Expressionist painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock influenced his work and life, and he, in turn, influenced them.
O’Hara’s writing typified modernism at the time, and he has frequently been referenced in popular culture – most notably on several episodes of the television series “Mad Men.”
O’Hara was worked at New York’s Museum of Modern Art as a young man (in the gift shop) and, later, as a special assistant with curatorial duties. He was painted by many artists and even collaborated on art and poetry projects with painters like Larry Rivers.
In 1950, O’Hara wrote the poem “Animals,” which garnered very little attention at the time. It has since become more popular, perhaps because of its modernism and because of its allusions to fleeting time, loss of love (“oh you were the best of all my days”) and to death. O’Hara himself died young and tragically when, at the age of 40, he was hit by a car on Fire Island, NY.