Abstract Expressionism and Frank O’Hara’s WritingWhile researching everything about American cotemporary poet Frank O’Hara, it became very apparent that art was a driving force in both his personal life and his professional writing career. This can be proved by merely trying to find information about him in the literature section in a library. Only his collected poems can be found, but much more information about Frank O’Hara can be found in the art section. Many art books dedicate entire sections to celebrating O’Hara’s poetry as complementary to the art of the abstract expressionist movement that was occurring in New York at the same time that O’Hara was writing his poetry. Even general art books that merely explain the characteristics of different art movements include Frank O’Hara as a contributing factor in the abstract expressionist art movement. It seems he was more significant in the art circles than in his own literary circles.
Much of the new criticism strays away from looking at the author’s personal life and biography as a window to understanding his work, but with Frank O’Hara, his personal friends and life in New York were a predominant and reoccurring theme in his poetry. He was a member of the New York School of Poets, which was a small group that followed in the footsteps of the famous New York School of Painting. This is only one of the many parallels between the art movement and O’Hara’s poetry. By closely looking at the artistic visions of the artists of the abstract expressionism movement, the qualities and themes of O’Hara’s writings, and by uncovering these themes in his poetry, the effect abstract expressionism had on O’Hara’s writings becomes clear and evident.
The abstract expression…
…ern is the amount of influence each medium had on one another. This aspect is easily overlooked, and this may be the reason that Frank O’Hara is disregarded in most literature books. It is not only his words that make him great and unique, it is the way his position in the art community influenced both his writings, and the artistic vision of the abstract expressionists that embraced him. If there were a book or a class that studied art’s influence on literature, or vice versa, then Frank O’Hara would play a key and pivotal role.
Anfam, David. Abstract Expressionism. New York: Thames, 1990.
Doty, Mike. “Frank O’Hara.” A Profile of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. ed. Jack Myers Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP: 1991.
Ferguson, Russell. In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art. Los Angeles: U of California, 1999.