Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]
by Frank O'Hara
Analysis: Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay
There’s more to a poem than meets the eye.
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 "How to Read a Poem" section for a glossary of terms.
Lana Turner was an actress who was first "discovered" at the age of 16 while hanging out in a Hollywood soda shop after school. She was blonde and beautiful, and her movie career lasted for over 50 years (though most of her major films were made in the '30s, '40s, and '50s). She starred in films such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Imitation of Life.
Turner was often cast as a femme fatale – a beautiful, seductive woman who usually has a secret. She was also famous for her personal life. She had many affairs and married eight times. In 1958 her daughter Cheryl stabbed Lana's boyfriend to death, resulting in a sensational trial that grabbed national attention. Lana Turner was always making headlines, and in his poem O'Hara turns her into a figure of celebrity culture.
- Line 1: The poem begins by letting us know what's important to the speaker: the famous actress has collapsed! Then she disappears from the poem for a bit.
- Line 11: Lana Turner comes back, this time in all caps. It's like the newspaper headline is screaming the news at the speaker.
- Lines 14-16: The speaker compares himself to Lana here. Maybe he's misbehaved, but not as badly as she has. Celebrities are so much more scandalous than your average fun-loving poet.
- Line 17: The speaker jokingly addresses Lana herself. He expresses his love for her and commands her to "get up." It's a funny moment – it's as if he's saying to all of Hollywood: get it together, people!
An apostrophe is a direct address to someone or something that's not there. Some poets apostrophize the moon. Some poets apostrophize abstract concepts, like death or love. O'Hara apostrophizes a celebrity – someone he will probably never know in life. While the speaker starts off by talking to his friend or lover (an intimate addressee), this shifts at the end of the poem. He speaks directly to Lana Turner – and this was way before you could tweet your love to a celebrity on twitter.
- Line 17: The speaker talks directly to Lana Turner, who, of course, will never hear him. (It's unlikely she had much time for poets in between movies, parties, and murder trials.) He is creating a kind of intimacy with her in his poem that can never exist in real life. His relationship with Lana is all in his head, and while he seems to acknowledge this with his joking tone, his care and affection for her still seem real.
Half of this poem is about the weather. Real exciting, we know – but it sets the scene of the poem and actually provides a little conflict too. It's a gray kind of day, the kind of day when you almost expect to read some bad news.
- Lines 2-7: The speaker thinks it's raining and snowing, but the addressee of the poem thinks it's hailing. It's kind of a silly, pointless argument to be having, but it's a way to show the closeness of the speaker and the addressee. Bickering about the weather is something you do only with someone you're close to.
- Lines 8-9: The sky is personified a bit here (and so is the traffic). By using the word "acting," the speaker makes it sound like both the sky and the traffic have some control over what they do – like maybe they both decided to "act" badly.
- Lines 12-13: Here the weather takes on more meaning. The speaker, at first, used the weather as the basis for a silly argument. Now he uses it to draw distinctions between his life in New York and Lana Turner's in Hollywood. He exaggerates (this is called hyperbole the differences between East Coast and West Coast weather to show just how different his life is from Lana's. (And how different a regular person's life is from a celebrity's in general.)