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City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara
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City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  206 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The first biography of Frank O'Hara--a poet who was at the very center of New York literary and artistic life during the 1950s and 60s. Gooch presents an unforgettable story of a man who was struck down at the height of his powers. 55 photos.
Hardcover, 532 pages
Published June 8th 1993 by Knopf
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Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Frank O'Hara was an almost savant-level talent: a whipsmart, intense, deeply flawed, fascinating bon vivant–and a real piece of work, as it turns out. This exhaustively detailed biography is elegantly, skillfully written–always interesting and evocative. The circle of legendary friends O'Hara surrounded himself with (William DeKooning! Diane DiPrima! Alan Ginsberg!) is remarkable in itself, yet O'Hara is one of those individuals who contained multitudes, a subject deserving of a biography if eve ...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
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay, non-fiction
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
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
David Marans
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ben Shear
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
5 stars for frank ohara 4 stars for brad gooch's bio of frank ohara. well worth the read. I hesitate to say unflinching bc there were parts where i flinched, but does paint a seemingly unbiased portrait of oharas life. and made me really wanna peek at nyc 50's art world for a week or so. don't know if i could handle much more. i would recommend to anybody who even kindve likes frank ohara
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A really readable and fascinating account of Frank O'Hara's life.
David Rullo
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
An overview of O'Hara's life that pays respect to his poetry but never examines either with a critical eye. Much like O'Hara's "I do this, I do that" poetry, Gooch's biography is filled with a lot of what O'Hara did, with whom he lived, where he worked, etc. It never delves too deeply though into his relationships, never attempts to explain, conclude or surmise.

O'Hara's poetry is often referenced, rather, snatches of O'Hara's poetry is referenced. If you are new to the poet you get no sense for
Catherine Meng
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
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.

-Frank O'Hara
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Seems to be the first serious biography of the poet and his circle of friends. Imperfect. It's a great beginning point, would work if one were to reading the poems while also reading the biography.

Then again, I am not a die-hard O'Hara fan.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it liked it
There's a lot of information in the book, which is useful, but it all feels so shallowly done. It might serve as a useful tool though for the real biography of O'Hara, which still waits to be written.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great biography about my favorite poet.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
liked frank, liked his poetry, hated the biography. read like an extended wikipedia article. very dry. 2.5 stars.
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Jul 25, 2011
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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 ...more
More about Brad Gooch...

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