Sunday, April 21, 2024

Poetry Corner

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By Norah Christian

I always laugh out loud when I read this poem.  It is funny, but O’Hara is also being ironic in that he’s pointing out how addicted we are, how we feed on the trivial news of our rich and famous. Lana Turner (1921 – 1995) was an American actress who achieved fame as both a pin-up model and a film actress, as well as for her highly publicized wild personal life. We could substitute for her name the names of many of our own current celebrities.

It’s just an ordinary morning for our narrator— He’s going to meet someone, it’s raining, traffic is bad—when suddenly he sees on a newsstand: “LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED.” He’s both excited and dismayed. He tells us he himself has been to parties where he acted “perfectly disgraceful,” but Lana, she really embarrassed herself. Still, he’s titillated and even more adoring of her because of this new incident. “Oh Lana Turner we love you get up.”  You gotta laugh.

Poem

By Frank O’Hara – 1926-1966

 

Lana Turner has collapsed!

I was trotting along and suddenly

it started raining and snowing

and you said it was hailing

but hailing hits you on the head

hard so it was really snowing and

raining and I was in such a hurry

to meet you but the traffic

was acting exactly like the sky

and suddenly I see a headline

LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!

there is no snow in Hollywood

there is no rain in California

I have been to lots of parties

and acted perfectly disgraceful

but I never actually collapsed

oh Lana Turner we love you get up

 

Frank O’Hara was a dynamic leader of the “New York School” of poets, From the beginning O’Hara’s poetry was engaged with the worlds of music, dance, and painting. Frank’s fame came to him unlooked-for.” His recognition came in part because of his early death, the somewhat absurd and meaningless occasion of that death (he was run down by a beach taxi on Fire Island), the prominence and loyalty of his friends, the renown of his own personality, and above all, the exuberant writings themselves. His casual attitude toward his poetic career is reminiscent of the casual composition of many of the poems themselves. One of his poems, “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!),” for example, was written on the Staten Island Ferry in route to a poetry reading, and his most important statement of poetics, “Personism,” was written in less than an hour while the friend who requested it, was on his way across town to pick it up.

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