Frank O’Hara

Frank O'Hara's poetry has been set to music by American composers such as Christopher Berg, Morton Feldman, Lukas Foss, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Ned Rorem.

Photo: Frank O'Hara, from the Poetry Foundation website

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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Frank O’Hara grew up in Massachusetts and was a musician before he was a poet. He studied piano at the New England Conservatory from 1941 to 1944 and then served in World War II. After the war, O’Hara attended Harvard College, beginning his studies in music.

During his Harvard years, O’Hara became more interested in poetry, though he still loved music and especially contemporary music. He began writing poetry, became friends with John Ashbery, and started publishing his work in the Harvard Advocate. Though he still loved music (and especially contemporary music), O’Hara finished a degree in English at Harvard. After earning a Master of Arts at the University of Michigan, O’Hara moved to New York City.

New York became central to O’Hara’s poetry. O’Hara took a job at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and began writing prolifically. He became an important figure in the New York School of poets after his first volume of poetry, A City in Winter (1952), was published. Some of his other famous volumes of poetry include Meditations in an Emergency (1956) and Lunch Poems (1964).

O’Hara was friends with many painters, including Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock. He died in a tragic sand buggy accident at the age of 40.

–Christie Finn
Source: Frank O’Hara’s entry in

Related Information


The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara

By Frank O’Hara

Art Chronicles (1954-1966)

By Frank O’Hara


Sheet Music

50 Collected Songs (high and low voice)

Composer(s): Ned Rorem

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

A Horse With Wings

Composer(s): Ricky Ian Gordon

Song(s): Once I Was
Sweet Song
Afternoon on a Hill
My Sister's New Red Hat
A Horse with Wings
Poem (Lana Turner has Collapsed)
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
The Spring and the Fall
The Red Dress
What Shall We Remember?
Will There Really Be a Morning?
Sycamore Trees
Fewer Words
The Special Picnic
Janet Underneath the Roses
I am a Cherry Alive
An Old-Fashioned Song
White Haired Woman

Buy via Hal Leonard

"For Poulenc" (from "Four Songs")

Composer(s): Ned Rorem

Buy via E. C. Schirmer

From "Sneden's Landing Variations"

Composer(s): Virgil Thomson

Buy via Lingua Press

Songs of Our Time

Composer(s): Ricky Ian Gordon

Song(s): Virginia Woolf
Little Horse
Spell against Sorrow
The Light Comes on by Itself
Pont Mirabeau
A Poem of Unrest
This Room
If You Can
Aspen Tree
Three Floors
The Crazy Woman
Dreams / Feet o' Jesus

Buy via Carl Fischer Music

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