Monday, October 20, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "Lana Turner has collapsed" by Frank O'Hara

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for October 20, 2014 is "Lana Turner has collapsed" by Frank O'Hara.  Comparison of this poem will be made to O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died."  The text of "Lana Turner has collapsed" may be found here:  Biographical information about O'Hara and an analysis of "The Day Lady Died" may be found here:

Lana Turner
"Lana Turner has collapsed" is similar in style to the elegy "The Day Lady Died."  In both poems, the speakers, presumably O'Hara, are profoundly affected by disquieting news--in one the collapse of Lana Turner, and in the other the death of Billie Holiday.  In both instances, the speakers in the poems seek to distract themselves by musing upon the quotidian events that occurred on the days that the news was learned--mundane events that have become seared into their memories because they occurred on the days of the traumas.

However, it is clear that finality of the death of Billie Holiday, as might be expected, is much more difficult for O'Hara to process than is the collapse of Lana Turner.  In the elegy, O'Hara cannot even bring himself to mention the deceased by name, except cryptically in the title ("Day" for "Holiday").  In contrast, in the poem about Lana Turner, O'Hara dispenses with a title entirely and reveals the subject of the poem in the first line; he also repeats the first line in the eleventh and again mentions Turner's name is his plea in the final line.

The degree of procrastination and avoidance in the elegy is much greater than in the poem about Lana Turner.  In the former, O'Hara recounts memories of numerous places:  the shoeshine, diner, newsstand, liquor store, tobacconist's, movie theater, and finally the night club where Billie Holiday performed.  In contrast, in the latter, O'Hara mentions only three items, two of them related.  He recalls rushing through bad weather, presumably in New York City, and how the weather in California, where Turner would have been, is usually pleasant, and further recalls that he has been to many parties.  

Finally, the elegy ends wistfully with the speaker's breath being held in awe.  The Turner poem ends frantically with the speaker screaming or pleading with all of his vocal power.

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