Frank O’Hara: an amazing life


Frank O’Hara,
Collected Poems

Frank O’Hara’s Life and Writing

To date, early 2013, the most complete book on Frank O’Hara’s life and work is Gooch, Brad. City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1993.

In 1974 I compiled an anthology of what I felt were Frank O’Hara’s best poems for a radio program on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s radio national service. I had recently bought the 1972 Collected Poems and based my selection on a thorough reading of the 586-page book, edited by Donald Allen, who had compiled the ground-breaking The New American Poetry a dozen years before.


Frank O’Hara, on the phone

During the 1970s the Australian poet John Forbes completed an Honours Thesis on John Ashbery, and began some higher degree research work on Frank O’Hara at the University of Sydney under the supervision of James Tulip. The work was never submitted. Forbes’s own poetry was profoundly influenced by the work of O’Hara and Ashbery. Material relating to John Forbes’s notes for his Thesis on Frank O’Hara is held at the University of Queensland Library Fryer Library:

Later I commissioned features on O’Hara’s work for «Jacket» magazine. These articles are free to read, and form a wide-ranging and useful body of work on the continuing influence O’Hara’s quirky writing continues to have on later generations. Links below will take you directly to these items:

Jacket 6 – Frank O’Hara – What’s With Modern Art? These reviews of art shows appeared in the “Reviews and Previews” section of «Art News» 1953–55. The collection is published in the chapbook «WHAT’S WITH MODERN ART?», compiled and edited by Bill Berkson, and you can purchase it from Dale Smith, c/- 2925 Higgins Street, Austin, TX USA 78722, Tel 1–512-44482–8277 /

Jacket 10 Frank O’Hara Feature


Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest (center) at the closing of the Cedar Bar, New York, 30 March, 1963, detail, photo copyright © Fred W.McDarrah, 1963, 2000

‘Perhaps, despite the pejorative flavor of the word, it might be more accurate to call them a “coterie”— if we define as coterie a group of writers rejected by the literary establishment who found strength to continue with their work by what the anarchists used to call ‘mutual aid’.  — John Bernard Myers

Russell Ferguson: Frank O’Hara and American Art
Lytle Shaw: On Coterie: Frank O’Hara
Ron Koertge: prose poem – Homage
John Latta: poem – Elogio di Frank O’Hara
David Lehman: poem – Ode to Modern Art

Jacket 16: Angel Hair anthology special: Frank O’Hara: Two poems: “A Raspberry Sweater”, to George Montgomery; and “To John Ashbery”

Jacket 16: Dale Smith reviews Hymns of St. Bridget by Bill Berkson and Frank O’Hara (The Owl Press, 2001, $14) from Angel Hair 6, Spring 1969

Jacket 22: Terence Diggory reviews Hyperscapes in the Poetry of Frank O’Hara: Difference/ Homosexuality/ Topography by Hazel Smith, Liverpool University Press, 2000, 230 pages. This piece is 2254 words or about five printed pages long.

Jacket 23: Olivier Brossard: The Last Clean Shirt: a film by Alfred Leslie and Frank O’Hara: This piece is 9,000 words or about twenty printed pages long.


Still from The Last Clean Shirt: image, Al Leslie; words, Frank O’Hara.

In 1964, American painter and film maker Alfred Leslie and poet Frank O’Hara completed the movie The Last Clean Shirt. It was first shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1964 and later that year at Lincoln Center in New York, causing an uproar among the audience. The movie shows two characters, a black man and a white woman, driving around Manhattan in a convertible car. The Last Clean Shirt is a true collaboration between a film maker and a poet since Frank O’Hara wrote the subtitles to the dialogue or rather the monologue: the woman is indeed the only character who speaks and she furthermore expresses herself in Finnish gibberish, which demanded that subtitles be added.

Jacket 36 – Late 2008 – Ian Davidson: Frank O’Hara’s Places (This piece is about 18 printed pages long.)