City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara
by Brad Gooch
In the first biography of this noted poet, the author describes O'Hara's insular Catholic upbringing, his bohemian lifestyle, and his brilliant career as a poet and a museum curator. 20,000 first printing. $30,000 ad/promo. BOMC Alt.
Hardcover, 532 pages
Published June 8th 1993 by Knopf
To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
(showing 1-30 of 273)
Received this book from friend Phyllis years ago and never read it until this month. Gooch's biography of poet and Musuem of Modern Art curator Frank O'Hara is informative and well-researched and documented. Gooch also incorporates many excerpts from O'Hara's poetry to show how the poet's experiences were inspiring his art. Although O'Hara is considered part of the New York School of poets and artists (including painter Jackson Pollock and poet Kenneth Koch), he collaborated and brushed hands wi...more
As with any biography, there is a struggle between exhaustive details and some sort of narrative drive. This book has a few chapters where it seems to be endless lists of who Frank knew, who he slept with, and who invited him for a weekend in the Hamptons, but it also has really great chapters looking at how the person he was sleeping with inspired him to write this amazing series of poems or that one seminal gorgeous piece. Gooch clearly seems to have spoken with every single person who ever kn...more
'I do this I do that'. Like its subject, the book is gossipy and insightful. While I can't yet say how much reading this biography has increased or lessened my admiration for O'Hara, I certainly feel as if I know him better. O'Hara's mileu is well drawn - post-war New York, second generation Ab Ex and the Pop rebellion that ultimately overthrew it are captured in portraits that deftly render the vitality of its participants. It is a world with an insatiable appetite for all forms of art and O'Ha...more
A biography that makes me want to return to all O'Hara's poems to see what I missed the first few times. A biography that makes this pilf prove there was a lot of baggage attached to him the poems do not suggest (Catholicism and self-image issues as causes). A biography that respects but does not canonize its subject, especially on the topic of his lovers and open gay love poetry, which according to this biographer is more incidental than purposeful or political or radical (maybe the best kind o...more
Although I am unable to appreciate Abstract Surrrealism, including most of the poems (and artwork) featured in this biography, I thought the book was excellent. And I was delighted to finally "meet" the wonder that was Frank O'Hara. His ridiculously premature death was a tremendous loss, wish I could have seem this kinetic, way ahead of his time wonder.
Biographies being what they are its hard to avoid a certain dishy, gossipy tendency, and even more so when the subject is one of the world-champion gossips. That gossipy tone became more pronounced toward the end of the book, but the middle section is actually pretty detailed in terms of sourcing the poems and showing how O'Hara worked. Worth the time if you're a serious Frank freak.
Sometimes the dissatisfaction which leads one to put something away for a few weeks and look at it later is not that the work is unfinished, but the inspiration is unfinished. You look at it later and realize that it is complete, and meanwhile the dissatisfaction has disappeared because it was part of the occasion rather than real critical response.
It's safe to say I'm on a major Frank O'Hara kick, and I preferred this to Joe LeSueur's memoir, although I don't think it beats Gooch's biography of Flannery O'Connor. Regardless, better understanding O'Hara's work in the context of his life should only make reading his poems that much more enjoyable.
Brad Gooch is the author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (Little, Brown, 2009.) His previous books include City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara; as well as Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America; three novels--Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, Zombie00; a collection of stories, Jailbait and Other Stories, chosen by Donald Barthelme for a Pushcart Foundation Writer’s Cho...moreMore about Brad Gooch...