Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father and Me

Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me by Ada Calhoun is a book about two generations of writers trying--and failing--to write a biography of the “New York School” poet Frank O’Hara. The title comes from the dismissive headline of O’Hara’s obituary in the New York Times: “EXHIBITIONS AIDE AT MODERN ART DIES—ALSO A POET” and the book dwells in the literal and figurative margins of not only O’Hara’s life but also Calhoun’s. Calhoun is the daughter of the celebrated writer and New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl and the book begins with Calhoun discovering lost cassette tapes of her father’s interviews for a biography of O’Hara in the 1970s, a project that he later abandoned. Fueled by interest and a desire to impress her father, Calhoun resolves to pick up the O’Hara biography where Schjeldahl left off, only to run into obstacles herself, not least the artistic clashes with O’Hara’s surviving sister, Maureen Granville-Smith. Once her original ambition fails, Calhoun finds the book taking its own shape, becoming a deeper and more personal exploration of her own life. Also, a Poet is brutally honest about Calhoun’s attempts to repair her troubled relationship with her father through her research, and the cultured but lonely childhood she spent in the midst of the dazzling 1970s New York art scene. This is a unique, fascinating memoir. (Non-Fiction)