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The Day Lady Died

The Day Lady Died


Frank O'Hara

The Day Lady Died Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

"The Day Lady Died" is an elegy to Billie Holiday. An elegy is a poem of mourning and lament for someone who has died. Some of the most famous elegies in the English language are Thomas Gray's "Ele...


The speaker of "The Day Lady Died" is crazy-busy. As in, he barely has time to write this poem. He keeps making asides and getting off on tangents, like when he says that he doesn't know who is goi...


When you were a kid, did you ever watch one of those educational cartoons where words seem to be real, physical objects? We're thinking Sesame Street or Schoolhouse Rock here. You know, a character...

Sound Check

"Lady Day" (Billie Holiday) was a jazz singer, and jazz thrives on improvisation. Fittingly, the speaker of "The Day Lady Died" sounds like he's just making things up as he goes along. The entire p...

What's Up With the Title?

"The Day Lady Died" is a simple description of the poem, which gives a blow-by-blow account of the speaker's activities on the day Billie Holiday died. "Here's where he went. Here's what he did." B...

Calling Card

Many of Frank O'Hara's poems appear to be lists of stuff he's done, people he's talked to, things he has read. They are filled with information you might get out of his day planner, if he had one....


There are two minor hurdles for the reader of this poem to overcome. The first is the abundance of brands and cultural references from the 1950s. Google can probably help you with that one. Or you...

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

If this poem were actually about Billie Holiday's life, maybe we could amp this a bit. But it's not. It's about her death.

Shout Outs

New World Writing (line 9) – a literary magazinePaul Verlaine (lines 14, 18)Pierre Bonnard (line 15)Hesiod (line 16)Richard Lattimore (line 16) – A translator who translated works of He...

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