1926 - 1966

“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.”

– Frank O’Hara

Born in Baltimore, Frank O’Hara studied piano at the New England Conservatory in Boston from 1941 to 1944 and served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarman on the destroyer USS Nicholas during World War II. Thanks to the GI Bill, he attended Harvard and received his masters from the University of Michigan in 1951. Afterwards he moved to New York and began writing in earnest. Generally autobiographical – his poetry captured feel of the city during the era - spontaneous, colloquial, blending styles, dashed with wit, references to popular culture, and ripe with a gay sensibility. He was a founder of the Poet’s Theatre and later the center of the New York school of poets which included John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. Heavily influenced by contemporary music as well as visual art, O’Hara was at the very center of the art world - working at The Museum of Modern Art at the front desk and eventually as Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions. He also worked as an editor and reviewer for ‘Art News’ and taught at The New School. Among his friends were noted artists Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Larry Rivers. His poetry collections include A City Winter and Other Poems (1952), Oranges (1953), Meditations in an Emergency (1957), and Second Avenue (1960). His scholarly publications on visual art include his 1959 study of Jackson Pollock in the ‘Great American Artists Series.’ In the summer of 1966 O’Hara was struck by a dune buggy on Fire Island and died of a ruptured liver the next day. In 1972 he was posthumously awarded The National Book Award for his Collected Poems.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution






Commemorations & Honors

Posthumous National Book Award for Poetry For The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1972)

University of Scranton Frank O’Hara Award Created in His Honor (2006)

Plaque Unveiled Outside O'Hara's New York City Residence at 441 East Ninth Street (2014)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell