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Publisher's Summary

A staggering memoir from New York Times best-selling author Ada Calhoun tracing her fraught relationship with her father and their shared obsession with a great poet, featuring exclusive archival audio from literary and art world legends, living and dead.

When Ada Calhoun stumbled upon old cassette tapes of interviews her father, celebrated art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had conducted for his never-completed biography of poet Frank O’Hara, she set out to finish the book her father had started 40 years earlier. 

As a lifelong O’Hara fan who grew up amid his bohemian cohort in the East Village, Calhoun thought the project would be easy, even fun, but the deeper she dove, the more she had to face not just O’Hara’s past, but also her father’s and her own.

The result is a groundbreaking and kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond. Also a Poet explores what happens when we want to do better than our parents, yet fear what that might cost us; when we seek their approval, yet mistrust it.

In reckoning with her unique heritage, as well as providing new insights into the life of one of our most important poets, Calhoun offers a brave and hopeful meditation on parents and children, artistic ambition, and the complexities of what we leave behind. 

©2022 Ada Calhoun (P)2022 Audible Originals

Publisher's Summary

A staggering memoir from New York Times best-selling author Ada Calhoun tracing her fraught relationship with her father and their shared obsession with a great poet, featuring exclusive archival audio from literary and art world legends, living and dead.

When Ada Calhoun stumbled upon old cassette tapes of interviews her father, celebrated art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had conducted for his never-completed biography of poet Frank O’Hara, she set out to finish the book her father had started 40 years earlier. 

As a lifelong O’Hara fan who grew up amid his bohemian cohort in the East Village, Calhoun thought the project would be easy, even fun, but the deeper she dove, the more she had to face not just O’Hara’s past, but also her father’s and her own.

The result is a groundbreaking and kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond. Also a Poet explores what happens when we want to do better than our parents, yet fear what that might cost us; when we seek their approval, yet mistrust it.

In reckoning with her unique heritage, as well as providing new insights into the life of one of our most important poets, Calhoun offers a brave and hopeful meditation on parents and children, artistic ambition, and the complexities of what we leave behind. 

©2022 Ada Calhoun (P)2022 Audible Originals

What listeners say about Also a Poet

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Don’t miss this fascinating book

Part memoir, part biography of her famous art critic father, and part exploration of New York School poet Frank O’Hara’s life and career, Ada Calhoun’s fascinating book “Also A Poet” is so absorbing you won’t be able to stop listening. Raised by true bohemians, Calhoun is exacting in her portrayal of what life is like with a difficult, self-absorbed father whose attention she’s always longed to capture. No short review will ever do this book justice, honestly; it’s such a fascinating view into so many different realms. It touches upon the art world, publishing, the struggles of balancing motherhood with a highly successful writing career, elder care, and coping with an extremely difficult parent, and it’s written with incredible grace. Five stars.

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Left me in tears

I love Frank O'Hara. I love Ada Calhoun. What a gorgeous meditation on art, family, and literary fame. Thank you, Ada, for once again bringing us another searching, honest, and potent book. May we have more Frank O'Haras and more Adas in this world.

2 people found this helpful

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It won me over!

This book won me over! I was interested in the poet O’Hara and in the inspiring Peter Schjeldal and ended up admiring the latter’s daughter and author of this book Ada more than the two combined. What an amazing book this is, and the audio version with all the tapes from the past is such a kick, congratulations Ada!!!

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Excellent book, audio has pluses and minuses

This was an excellent read, though I wonder if I might have gotten more out of a print version. A large chunk of this book is audio recordings from the 70s, and at many points I had trouble hearing and focusing on those parts. Ada’s narration, as well as a re-enacted conversation with an actress, were compelling enough to almost make up for this.

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Pretty Interesting

The concept of this memoir is intriguing: writer inherits a love of Frank O'Hara poetry and an infinished biography book project from her art-critic father. Sounds like I'm going to get the stories of a woman, her father, and a poet. I do get some of that, but not enough, and not within any meaningful context.

I listened to the audiobook, and the author reads her words very well. But, by Chapter 5, I was getting severely annoyed by all the insertions of real-life audio tapes. At first, I heard a clip from an interview and thought it was really cool, and definitely a bonus of listening to the audiobook. But it was way too much of that. I wanted to hear the writer write, not listen to a podcast. It was made worse by the fact that all the interview tapes are from the 1970s, with terrible audio quality, background noise (traffic, neighbors, babies!). And several of those interviewed speak s o o s l o w l y . . . it was driving me nuts, because I usually speed slow-talkers up. But here, I would speed up, listen for five minutes, and then it would return to the author narration, which was too fast at that speed. So, I had to stop and fiddle with the speed and rewind. etc. a lot.

Also, I did not enjoy listening to the author as a toddler with her parents. I am not a kid-person, and the sound of children's voices (talking, singing, laughing) is grating. I get that it's cool to discover recordings of yourself as you were forming, and of your parents-but-younger, but does anyone else care? I don't feel like I was given enough information to appreciate this glimpse into history.

As for Frank O'Hara, there are a few interesting anecdotes from friends, lovers, and family (sort of) but I would've rather have read them (or heard the author read them) than they to make out these crappy tapes. It's too much work for my brain to listen to such different voices, paces, and quality one after the other. I don't feel like I know anything more about Frank O'Hara, at all.

I was looking forward to the selected poems section, and it turned out to be a list of titles. Sigh.

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Listened straight thru- then replayed next day!

Ms. Ada Calhoun:

Can not speak high enough of both you & your fathers contribution. In the audible edition, most quotations are in fact original recordings from 1977 / 1978 discovered in the basement storage or Ada's parents NYC brownstone. As a struggling author and poet myself struggling 20+ year with mental health, addiction, relationships & general recklessness, this story found me at the right time. It displays the bohemian and New York School culture into vivid focus like the warm saturations of a timepiece cinematography. And the personal connections of those involved in its making validates its existence. Thank you Ada. -Benji from St. Pete, FL.

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So gorgeous and evocative

I chose to listen to the audiobook of “Also a Poet” out of convenience, but in the end I got so so so much out of choosing this medium, because the book relies heavily on recorded interviews, which are included. The effect is transportive and emotional, especially at the end. I don’t know how these recordings are reproduced in the printed text but I intend to find out: I loved this book so much I am buying a hardcover to keep on my shelf and read passages from again and again. I’ll probably listen to the audiobook again too!