Today is Sort of Frank O’Hara’s Birthday

Today is sort of Frank O’Hara’s birthday, or at least the day he always thought of as his birthday.

Nowadays, the world celebrates O’Hara’s birthday on March 27, which is the day he was actually born in 1926.  But as I’ve noted before, that was not the day he thought of as his birthday.  His parents told him, and the world, that he was born on June 27 in order to cover up the fact that his mother was already pregnant with him at the time his parents got married — which would’ve been scandalous to their Irish-Catholic families and community.  As O’Hara’s biographer Brad Gooch explains, O’Hara’s “birth certificate — found twenty-five years after his death — recorded his real birth as three months earlier, on March 27, 1926, at Maryland General Hospital.  The presiding physician: Maurice Shamer, M.D.”

In the long autobiographical poem called “Ode to Michael Goldberg (‘s Birth and other Births),” O’Hara wrote:

I hardly ever think of June 27, 1926,
when I came moaning into my mother’s world
and tried to make it mine immediately
by screaming, sucking, urinating
and carrying on generally
it was quite a day

O’Hara also deliberately choose this date — 60 years ago today — to begin his long poem “In Memory of My Feelings,” on the day he thought was his 30th birthday, June 27, 1956.

This strange fact about O’Hara’s birthday presents us with a conundrum: which date should we celebrate as his big day — the day he would’ve considered his birth day, or the actual day he was born?  The world, or at least the world represented by anthology headnotes and Twitter posts, seems to have chosen March 27, but I’m not so sure.

In any event, happy sort-of birthday to Frank O’Hara!




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