About the Book
Important poems by the late New York poet published in The New American Poetry, Evergreen Review, Floating Bear and stranger places.
Often this poet, strolling through the noisy splintered glare of a Manhattan noon, has paused at a sample Olivetti to type up thirty or forty lines of ruminations, or pondering more deeply has withdrawn to a darkened ware- or firehouse to limn his computed misunderstandings of the eternal questions of life, coexistence, and depth, while never forgetting to eat lunch, his favorite meal.
"O’Hara speaks directly across the decades to our hopes and fears and especially our delights; his lines are as intimate as a telephone call. Few books of his era show less age." --Dwight Garner, New York Times
"As collections go, none brings. . .quality to the fore more than the thirty-seven Lunch Poems, published in 1964 by City Lights." --Nicole Rudick, The Paris Review
"What O'Hara is getting at is a sense of the evanescence, and the power, of great art, that inextricable contradiction that what makes it moving and transcendent is precisely our knowledge that it will pass away. This is the ethos at the center of Lunch Poems”: not the informal or the conversational for their own sake but rather in the service of something more intentional, more connective, more engaged." --David L. Ulin, Los Angeles TImes
"The collection broadcasts snark, exuberance, lonely earnestness, and minute-by-minute autobiography to a wide, vague audiencemuch like today's Twitter and Facebook feeds." --Micah Mattix, The Atlantic
Among the most significant post-war American poets, Frank O'Hara grew up in Grafton, MA, graduating from Harvard in 1950. After earning an MA at Michigan in 1951, O'Hara moved to New York, where he began working for the Museum of Modern Art and writing for Art News. By 1960, he was named Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at MOMA. Along with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, and Barbara Guest, he is considered an original member of the New York School. Though he died in a tragic accident in 1966, recent references to O'Hara on TV shows like Mad Men or Thurston Moore’s new single evidence our culture’s continuing fascination with this innovative poet.
About the Book
With the funding made available to veterans he attended Harvard University, where artist and writer Edward Gorey was his roommate. Although O'Hara majored in music and did some composing, his attendance was irregular and his interests disparate. He regularly attended classes in philosophy and theology, while writing impulsively in his spare time. O'Hara was heavily influenced by visual art and by contemporary music, which was his first love (he remained a fine piano player all his life and would often shock new partners by suddenly playing swathes of Rachmaninoff when visiting them). His favorite poets were Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Boris Pasternak, and Vladimir Mayakovsky. While at Harvard, O'Hara met John Ashbery and began publishing poems in the Harvard Advocate. Despite his love of music, O'Hara changed his major and graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a degree in English.
He then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While at Michigan, he won a Hopwood Award and received his M.A. in English literature in 1951. That autumn O'Hara moved into an apartment in New York City with Joe LeSueur, who would be his roommate and sometime lover for the next 11 years. It was in New York that he began teaching at The New School.
Known throughout his life for his extreme sociability, passion, and warmth, O'Hara had hundreds of friends and lovers throughout his life, many from the New York art and poetry worlds. Soon after arriving in New York, he was employed at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and began to write seriously.
O'Hara was active in the art world, working as a reviewer for Artnews, and in 1960 was Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art. He was also friends with the artists Willem de Kooning, Norman Bluhm, Larry Rivers and Joan Mitchell.
In the early morning hours of July 24, 1966, O'Hara was struck by a dune buggy on the Fire Island beach. He died the next day of a ruptured liver. O'Hara was buried in Green River Cemetery on Long Island. The painter Larry Rivers, a longtime friend and lover of O'Hara's, delivered the eulogy.