Lunch Poems -- so-called because O'Hara wrote many of them on his lunch breaks when he worked at MoMA -- contains some of the poet's best-known work, such as "A Step Away From Them," "The Day Lady Died," "Personal Poem," "Ave Maria," and "Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]."
Frank O'Hara was, along with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, a leading member of what came to be known as the New York School of Poets. Closely associated with the Abstract Expressionist painters of the 1950s (and acting as a sort of alternative to the Beats), the New York School poets "favored wit, humor and the advanced irony of the blague (that is, the insolent prank or jest)" (David Lehman, The Last Avant-Garde).
O'Hara was an assistant curator as the Museum of Modern Art and wrote for Art News as well. Many of his poems have a jaunty, dashed off feeling that belies their Romantic leanings and intricate aesthetic and social arguments. Pop culture and his enormous circle of friends often enter O'Hara's "I-do-this, I-do-that" poems. The New York School sought to inject a spirit of irreverence and fun into poetry via their Surrealist influences that they felt was sorely missing in the mid-20th-century. In his famous mock-manifesto "Personism," O'Hara wrote: ". . . I don't even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.' "