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, taken by Gianni Bates.

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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



Sheet Music

50 Collected Songs

Composer(s): Ned Rorem

Song(s): Clouds
The End
Chromatic Fantasy
For Susan
Psalm 150
The Nightingale
A Birthday
A Child Asleep in Its Own Life
A Journey
The Land of Fear
Little Elegy
The Lordly Hudson
O Do Not Love Too Long
On a Little Bird
Poem for F.
The Serpent
Shelley's Vision
The Sick Wife
Spring (Hopkins)
Spring (Koch)
The Waking
What if some little pain...
While Sodom was occupied
A Glimpse
He Thinks Upon His Death
Rain in Spring
You, the young Rainbow
Early in the Morning
Are you the new person?
Catullus: on the Burial of His Brother
Ferry me across the water
I strolled across an open field
I will always love you
Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair
Look down, fair moon
Love in a Life
On a Singing Girl
Sometimes with one I love
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Such beauty as hurts to behold
That shadow, my likeness
To a Young Girl
Visits to St. Elizabeths

Voice Type: High & Medium/Low

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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

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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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