Ada Calhoun - "Also a Poet" - Jeff Deutsch

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Ada Calhoun

"Through moving feats of narrative magic, Ada Calhoun tells the story of the lives of the New York School poets and painters, her father’s, and her own, and what passes between them in this vulnerable, insightful, and, ultimately, forgiving book. Equal parts detective story, ethnography, autobiography, and literary homage, this masterful and strikingly original work -- almost a genre unto itself! -- explores what we do and don’t owe each other in our search for truth, beauty, and love. Also a Poet is a marvel!" - Jeff Deutsch, Director Seminary Co-op Bookstores and author of In Praise of Good Bookstores 


Ada Calhoun will discuss Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me. She will be joined in conversation by Jeff Deutsch.

This event will be held in-person at the Seminary Co-op. Masks are required for attendees.


About the book: In the fall of 2018 Calhoun was in the basement of her childhood home in lower Manhattan looking for a toy to give her goddaughter. While there, she stumbles upon dusty old cassette tapes of interviews her father, celebrated art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had conducted for his never-completed biography of poet Frank O’Hara. The tapes contain interviews with legendary New York School painters and writers as well as O’Hara’s family. She is mystified that her father never finished the project, all the more so because O’Hara is his idol and the reason why he moved to New York. Calhoun, who never misses a deadline, is confident she can finish the book her father had started forty 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 Calhoun had to face not just O’Hara’s past, but also her father’s, and her own. The result is not the biography Calhoun was expecting, but instead a groundbreaking and kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond. Calhoun interlaces never-before-told stories about O’Hara and the glamorous New York School artists with fearlessly honest vignettes from her own life. Calhoun is in many ways the opposite of her father, dependable where he is mercurial, devoted to her family where he is aloof, throughout her life she has always had the nagging sense that her father just didn’t find her all that interesting. But yet, they share a love for Frank O’Hara. 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 upbringing and family, 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.

About the author: Ada Calhoun is the author of St. Marks Is Dead, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, and Why We Can’t Sleep. She has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Washington Post.

About the interlocutor: Jeff Deutsch is the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which in 2019 he helped incorporate as the first not-for-profit bookstore whose mission is bookselling. He lives in Chicago.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637