The collective verse of Frank O’Hara is a definitive exhibition of concept that if you want to be a writer, the most important thing you can be doing at any given time is writing. Many of the poems that O’Hara set to paper were composed during those times when people who do not want to be a writer are letting their dreams slip through their fingers. O’Hara created literature on his lunch break and while waiting in line and while getting from point A to point B. Sometimes these stolen minutes resulted in a memorable turn of phrase or a snapshot of imagery or just a vague idea. Sometimes they produced an entire poem intact. For O’Hara, life about writing and writing was about life.
He was at the vanguard of a movement that came to be known as the New York School. He took a job at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and kept working there until his untimely death at age 40. And always, he wrote. Composed. Sketched out ideas and themes. And wrote some more.
The paradox and perhaps the irony is that despite all that scribbling, O’Hara seemed curiously unambitious about having the results of that scribbling published. The prodigious output that resulting from spending so much time writing can only be fully appreciated with the revelation that Frank O’Hara actually did published several collections while he was still alive, but the bulk of his poetry would be posthumously collected.
His day job and his poetic soul would become intertwined to a degree impossible to extricate. The idea and concepts of Modern Art are pervasive through his verse. The effects of seeing the masterworks of the Surrealists and being there at the moment that Abstract Expression exploded into the mainstream can be felt throughout many of poems that paint as palpable and exciting a portrait of the urban artist in the middle of the 20th century as any novel.