The ever-present influence of Frank O’Hara’s poetry on popular culture

“Alongside poets such as Barbara Guest, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara was a leading figure in the New York School of Poets, active during the 1950s and 1960s. As an art curator at the Museum of Modern Art, O’Hara bridged a gap between the city’s poets and artists, often writing during his lunch breaks, resulting in his seminal 1964 collection, Lunch Poems. His deep involvement in the art world informed his poetry, as did his life in New York, capturing everyday moments and conversations with beauty and celebration. Perhaps his most famous poem, ‘Having a Coke With You’ epitomises O’Hara’s delighting attitudes best. He writes: ‘I look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world/ except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick/ which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together for the first time’. O’Hara has left a significant legacy hanging over pop culture, his words mirroring a transformative period in American society. His appreciation for others, art and music, and New York City is evident in every poem, epitomising an era of postwar hopefulness and innovation. O’Hara’s poems are imbued with cultural and geographical references, which submerge the reader into his world while also giving them a sense of universality. His references to the mundane are utterly charming, for example, in ‘A Step Away from Them’: ‘It’s my lunch hour, so I go/ for a walk among the hum-colored/ cabs. First, down the sidewalk/ where laborers feed their dirty/glistening torsos sandwiches’. … Thus, it is only natural that O’Hara’s approach to capturing the everyday has been adopted by other artists, often adapting the poet’s ideas to other mediums, such as film and music. Greta Gerwig, director of the beautiful coming-of-age tale Lady Bird, cites Lunch Poems as a major inspiration for the film. Saoirse Ronan plays the eponymous protagonist, a teenage girl living in Sacramento, dreaming of escape from her suburban life to expansive and alluring New York City, the place that defined so much of O’Hara’s work. …”
Far Out
Brooklyn Rail – Into a Future of His Choice: Catching Up with Frank O’Hara
YouTube: USA: Poetry Episode Frank O’Hara and Ed Sanders 30:17

1964. Image courtesy of Bill Berkson.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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