TOPIC: Write a coherent essay on the use that Frank O’Hara makes of listing as a way of presenting “The Day Lady Died.” But—and this is the point of the paper—study that presentation of listing in terms of the poem’s final stanza, in which the speaker recalls Billie Holiday (“Lady Day”) singing in a New York club (“the 5 Spot,” 27).
Length: 3-4 typewritten pages (about 750-900 words)
Due: 25-27 April
1. The poem is, by type, an elegy for a dead singer. (See Roethke’s “Elegy for Jane.”) What contexts concerning art are established for her own art of song?
2. Are there patterns in the poem, despite a seeming randomness in the events of a Friday lunch hour. (The title of the volume of poems is Lunch Poems.) Look at time and artistic figures and the nature of various kinds of artistic performances. This poem is, of course, a poetic performance. Check out the text/song contrast.
3. What is (are) the mood(s) of the speaker as the poem develops? How is bodily sensation or movement presented?
4. What role is given to the irregular stanzas? How do they group the experiences of the speaker? How does the poet use “and”? That is, how does he use this device of linking?
5. How is the transition to the final stanza achieved?
6. Is the last stanza different from previous stanzas?
7. The poet uses free verse. How does that use allow him to shape the lines in the poem and in the final stanza? Watch the use of participles (verbal forms ending in “ing”; remember that a participle, like an infinitive, is not time-bound, as a tense is.). “I ran” is in the past tense; the running was done in the past. “running” is done anytime. Think of the poem’s start, and remember that a theme of the poem is remembering time (train departures, arrivals; dates in history; time of day, month, year).
8. O’Hara sometimes uses a comma, sometimes not. Is the absence of usual punctuation effective in your view? What about the very end of this poem, which is, of course, about a singer’s ending?
9. Please remember that the above are suggestions to consider. You need to construct your own argument. Do not write the essay as a list of responses to 1-8.