Frank O’Hara: Accident and Design

  • Geoff Ward
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


Frank O’Hara was dead at forty. Called on to speak by the graveside, the New York painter Larry Rivers began, ‘Frank was my best friend’, but later in his speech had ruefully to admit that there were ‘at least sixty people in New York who thought Frank O’Hara was their best friend’.1 Poet, critic, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Modern Art and associated with many of the painters called Abstract Expressionist, O’Hara led by any standards a packed and hectic life in which the threads of work, play, friendship and competition were deliberately allowed to intertwine at speed. His career, evidently successful in one way, also had something of the balancing-act about it. According to one close friend and colleague at MOMA, O’Hara had been ‘under suspicion as a gifted amateur’ during his early years at the Museum: a Harvard English major who switched from Music, graduating in 1950, O’Hara was first employed on the front desk, the sum of his relevant work-experience at that time having been dogsbodying in the theatre and a brief stint as private secretary to photographer Cecil Beaton. Consequently O’Hara did not have ‘the credentials of art history training or a long museum apprenticeship to support his claim to direct exhibitions’, and his closeness to the artists was thought a mixed blessing.2


Deep Space Poetic Language Romantic Poet Romantic Poetry Love Poem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 7.
    Frederick Page, ed., Byron: Poetical Works (Oxford: Oxford U. P., rev. ed. 1970). All further quotations from Byron’s poetry are from this edition.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena: and other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, tr. D. B. Allison (Evanston: Northwestern U. P., 1973), p. 108.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Paul de Man, ‘Shelley Disfigured’, in Harold Bloom et al, Deconstruction and Criticism (London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 69.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Barbara Johnson, The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins U. P., 1980), p. xi.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, tr. R. Howard (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1979), p. 69.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Donald M. Allen, ed., The New American Poetry (New York: Grove Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Donald Allen and George F. Butterick (eds), The Postmoderns (New York: Grove Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    R. D. Gooder, ‘After the Deluge, Me: Some Reflections on the Poems of Frank O’Hara’, The Cambridge Quarterly, XIV (2), 1985, p. 99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 17.
    A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan (eds), The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: Volume I, 1909–1939 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1987), p. 21.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    See for example Bram Dijkstra, The Hieroglyphics of a New Speech: Cubism, Stieglitz and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams (New Jersey: Princeton U. P., 1969), esp. Chapter I.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Francis Scarfe (ed.), Baudelaire: The Complete Verse (London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1986) p. 61.Google Scholar
  12. 34.
    Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven and London: Yale U. P., 1979) p. 17.Google Scholar
  13. 35.
    Barbara Johnson, A World of Difference (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins U. P., 1987) p. 17.Google Scholar
  14. 37.
    The statement by Ed Dorn is taken from the dustjacket of the British edition of Tom Raworth, A Serial Biography (London: Fulcrum Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  15. Dorn’s observations on the shared mind and other localities are contained in an interview for VORT magazine, reprinted in Edward Dorn, Interviews (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1980).Google Scholar
  16. 38.
    Thomas H. Johnson (ed.), The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (London: Faber and Faber, 1975) p. 333.Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    David Gascoyne, ‘And the Seventh Dream is the Dream of Isis’, Collected Poems 1988 (Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988) p. 25.Google Scholar
  18. 40.
    As given by Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner, Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of Nineteenth Century Art (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1984) p. 25.Google Scholar
  19. 43.
    Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI, The Cantos of Ezra Pound (London: Faber and Faber, 1968) p. 553.Google Scholar
  20. 44.
    George F. Butterick (ed.), The Collected Poems of Charles Olson, excluding the Maximus Poems (Berkeley: California U. P., 1988) pp. 172–3.Google Scholar
  21. 45.
    T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (London: Faber and Faber, 1963) p. 217.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    Reginald L. Cook (ed.), Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Prose and Poetry (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969) p. 42.Google Scholar
  23. 47.
    Grace Hartigan to Marjorie Perloff, 14 March 1976. As given by Perloff, Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters (Austin: Texas U. P., 1977) p. 215.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoff Ward 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoff Ward
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations