Friday, November 13, 2020

What needs annotation in two poems by Frank O'Hara

In a class discussion today of Frank O'Hara's "Poem" about Lana Turner and "The Day Lady Died" about Billie Holiday, my students had no trouble with the line "Lana Turner has collapsed!" – even though none of them had ever heard of Turner. As I'd mentioned that O'Hara was a mid-twentieth-century poet, they all simply assumed she was a celebrity that one might see a tabloid headline about. In contrast, the proliferation of contemporary details in "The Day Lady Died" led us to have to go through the poem as annotators, with my explanations of everything from Paul Verlaine to the New York Post – and, of course, Billie Holiday and Mal Waldron. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 November)

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