Frank O’Hara would’ve turned 87 in March if he hadn’t been hit by a dune buggy on Fire Island in 1966. O’Hara was a category straddling artist who wouldn’t be boxed-in by the preconceived boundaries that separated – and continue to separate – artists and the people who organize and comment on their work.
O’Hara curated exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and he also wrote arts criticism. He was also one of the most-celebrated of the post-Beat poets and was the de facto face of the New York School of poetry. He denounced the company of the New York literati, preferring to hang out with painters like Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Larry Rivers. Like these artists, O’Hara thought of his individual poems as records of the process that created them, and of his poetry as a whole as a kind of creative diary of his life.
Here is a short film that stays focused on the man and his work, and features a number of readings of some of the poet’s better known pieces. “Having a Coke with You” is the slam-bang closer here, but the whole provides a nice primer on O’Hara. This short doc is one of twelve portraits of poets from Richard O. Moore’s USA: Poetry series from 1966. O’Hara died weeks after this footage was shot, making the following scenes read like both snapshots of a creative life and a too-soon memorial.