& art critic
. Killed by a dune buggy
in 1966 at the age of 40
. Born in Baltimore
, educated at Harvard
, but O'Hara and his writing are synonymous
with New York City
. He was a part of the group of poets known as the New York School
along with John Ashberry
(whom he met at Harvard), Kenneth Koch
and James Schuyler
These poets were closely intertwined with the art world in New York. O'Hara worked at the MOMA and he, Ashberry & Koch wrote reviews for ArtNews. O'Hara was also friends with painters Larry Rivers, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns and their work was both inspiration and sometimes subject. Painter Mike Goldberg, and a contrast of his creative process with O'Hara's own is the subject of "Why I am Not a Painter", one of O'Hara's best known poems.
O'Hara is enticing but challenging to read. His work is laced with popular references (Billie Holiday, Lana Turner, James Dean) and urban scenes and language (Lunch Poems, his contribution to City Lights' Pocket Poets series, was just that, written on/about his weekday walks for lunch from MOMA). But, if you can imagine (or relate if you've read it), he lets the grammar and the narrative loose so that it can be hard to tell if you are in a room, on a roof, out of his mind, or lost between sentence and sentences. The poems seem, very much to me, to be made up of sentences (as opposed to lines). O'Hara addresses us in a prose mode, but none of the usual landmarks are requisite.
By the way, did I mention he was killed by a dune buggy?