This poem is written in pretty free free verse, so there's no rhyme or meter to keep it chugging along. There's almost no punctuation in the poem either, so reading it out loud might make you lose your breath. It certainly sounds like the speaker has lost his!
The only moments of punctuation in the poem are the exclamation points in the lines that tell us "Lana Turner has collapsed!" While the rest of the poem moves pretty quickly and mimics the speaker trotting along the city street, the exclamation points make us pause and add emphasis to these lines. And when O'Hara capitalizes "LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!" you might get the feeling that he is yelling. Go with this feeling. Climb to your rooftop and yell: LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED! It will feel good – we promise.
Because Frank O'Hara called a whole lot of his poems "Poem," most people refer to this one by its first line: "Lana Turner has collapsed!" We don't know why he didn't give it a more interesting title, but we do know it's fun to say "Lana Turner has collapsed!" every time we refer to it.
While the poem doesn't ever reference New York explicitly, we're pretty sure it takes place on the streets of Manhattan. O'Hara was a mostly autobiographical poet, and he wrote a lot about his daily life in New York. This poem comes from his collection called Lunch Poems, many of which he wrote during his lunch break from his job at the Museum of Modern Art. O'Hara wrote "Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]" while on the Staten Island Ferry, and we feel pretty comfortable assuming that it takes place in his beloved city too. (For more on the writing of the poem, check out what we have to say in our "In a Nutshell" section.)
This is a pretty short poem, so we don't get to know tons about the speaker. This is what we do know: he gets into petty arguments with loved ones, he's "acted perfectly disgraceful[ly]" at parties in the past, and he loves celebrity gossip.
Despite his argumentative tendencies, the speaker seems like a pretty amusing guy. We'd probably all like to know a little bit more about what he's done at those parties. Is he referring to drinking? Sexual encounters? Drugs? Who knows. He keeps this information to himself – he's a little bit coy, which just might make him all the more attractive.
In addition to being an enthusiastic partygoer, the speaker seems like a fun friend to have around. He's the type of guy who would know which celebrities are secretly dating and which are secretly in drug rehab. He's not a Hollywood insider – he's not a celebrity himself – but he seems to know and care a whole lot about them. Maybe he's a little bit gossipy, maybe he's a little bit bickery, but we'd bet that he'd be a whole lot of fun to hang out with.
This poem isn't too difficult to understand on a basic level. The speaker is walking around when he learns that Lana Turner has collapsed. He wants her to get up. No biggie. But it can be a little difficult to analyze such a short and seemingly casual poem, because you really do need to pay close attention to every line. We've helped you out with this in the "Summary" section.
O'Hara was known for his "I do this, I do that" poems. (Really – that's what the critics call them.) He's famous for poems that catalogue his daily activities – walking down New York streets, stopping by the liquor store, attending parties, you name it. O'Hara's speakers often do one thing, then another, then another, and bundle up a day's worth of life in single poem. (For more on O'Hara's "I do this, I do that" style, check out the "Form and Meter" section.)
Almost all of Frank O'Hara's poems are written in free verse, meaning that they have no rhyme scheme and no formal meter. So, what makes an O'Hara poem an O'Hara poem?
Poetry critics have come up with a great formal categorization for "Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]" and others like it. They call these poems O'Hara's "I do this, I do that" poems. (Really. That's what they're called.)
Why, you ask? Well, a lot of O'Hara's poems, including this one, are seemingly casual narratives of his day. His speakers walk down the street, have a Coke, look at the newsstand, stop by to see some friends, buy some poetry, and so on. They do this. They do that. The speaker of "Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]" is no different.
While it has no formal pattern, the "I do this, I do that" style is signature O'Hara. His poems may not be held together by iambic pentameter or rhyme, but they are often organized by a loose narrative of personal experience that usually begins with the speaker walking down the streets of New York – doing this, doing that.
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.
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.
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.
While there may be a little innuendo going on in this poem (what kind of disgraceful things did you actually do at those parties, Frank?) the poem itself is pretty much G-rated. But if you're looking for something a little more PG-13 (or even R) read up on Lana Turner! We promise she won't disappoint.