Lana Turner has collapsed! (Close Reading Analysis)

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Set against the backdrop of a slushy, gray New York winter day, the quirky, fun-loving speaker shockingly arrests all motion around him with the jarring proclamation in the first line: Lana Turner, famed movie star, has collapsed. She’s such an important, central figure to the speaker that instead of drawing us into the immediate with present tense, we’re drawn back to the past through the use of the past progressive, reliving all the events up to dramatic newsflash.

O’Hara’s engaged in a petty, trivial discussion about the weather. It’s raining and snowing, but the addressee argues that it’s hailing. In one long, grand, sweeping run-on sentence, we’re cleverly drawn into O’Hara’s so-called mundane, pedestrian world, yet another one of the many “I did this, I did that” poems. But, as it so often is, the straightforward lines deliver a breathless momentum that drives it forward, each line never losing its impetus, largely due to the implementation of parataxis. There is no “because this, then that”; no, subordination and a causal, ostensibly logical flow of events are cast aside, leaving us with a dizzying timestream that’s constantly in flux, because things just happen, and then more things happen, and then that happens as well, and then suddenly—

LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED! The only punctuation in this entire poem is an exclamation point, both of which appear after the statement about Lana. In a way, it’s the only sort of respect that’s given to the actress, the fact that the newspaper headline is outrageously campy and even borderline disrespectful if one were to assume this was an elegy of sorts.

Instead of dwelling on Lana, the speaker again returns to the weather, which is the only clear symbol in the entire poem. There is some vague personification when he likens the traffic to the sky, both furious, uncontrollable entities, but he then creates a dramatic hyperbole between East and West Coast weather. There’s no rain or snow out West—how different the two are, how little they have in common! O’Hara then immediately juxtaposes the contrasting weather with the seemingly overwhelming differences between himself and Lana. She is elevated, Olympian, caught up in the fast-paced, mad world of scandals and films; he is a lowly poet who has little hope for being remembered. But he has been to wild parties, just like she has, although he’s never actually done something as ridiculous as have a fainting spell, like Lana has.

Still, what does it matter? For the first and only time in the poem, the speaker turns to the unattainable Lana Turner the Collapsed, reaching out to her through the forever fluctuating time and space, and apostrophizes her, calling out, “oh Lana Turner we love you get up,” and one can almost hear the breathlessness in his voice as he looks to his idol. Perhaps they’re as different as hail and rain, but if she were just rain–well, would LANA TURNER HAVE COLLAPSED?


The Exquisite Liquor: Close Reading Analysis of Emily Dickinson

I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove’s door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

As Emily Dickinson lurches down the streets through endless summer days, drunk on a “liquor never brewed,” she masterfully uses the power of the written word to create a cleverly extended metaphor in her poem “I taste a liquor never brewed–” She begins by telling the reader that she’s drunk on the most decadent alcoholic beverage known to mankind, served to her in an exquisite pearl-studded tankard. She continues developing the intoxication conceit, painstakingly describing how extraordinary this liquor is, but then suddenly reveals to us, in the next stanza, what exactly she’s been intoxicated with.

An “inebriate of air” and “debauchee of dew,” Dickinson is drunk on the glorious nature she’s surrounded by, dizzied with its magnificent splendor and poignant beauty. It’s forever summer in Emily’s world: the skies are a dazzling azure, the sun refuses to set. All’s right in the world. It’s so grand that even when the so-called landlord–a metaphor for the Creator, it would seem–stops the bees and butterflies from consuming their nectar and drams (their alcohol), Emily decides she “shall but drink the more!”

Though an exclamation point at the end of the third stanza would seem to signify the completion of the sentence, Emily continues the train of thoughts in the final stanza. She draws upon the spiritual, stating that she’ll become even more intoxicated and will let the seraphs and saints watch, as she becomes one with the nature, perhaps in a way transcending to a higher state that’s neither physical nor exactly spiritual, “leaning against the — Sun –”

So what stands out in true Dickinsonian fashion? Emily takes the conventional four-line stanza format and then figuratively flips the table over and defies convention. The haphazard dashes break up the otherwise fairly rhythmic beat of the poem, perhaps a means to let the reader partake of the intoxicated state she’s in as she lurches and reels about, swerving from one train of thoughts to the other. It allows her to bring the reader in more intimately, to become a part of her and let her every condensed thought be one of ours.

But what of content itself? The extended metaphor of drunkenness might be nothing more than an ode to nature, a brief piece where Dickinson revels in the wondrous nature about her. But it might also be more than that: looking closely, the poem seems to almost paradoxical in some respects. Emily describes the physical in near-transcendent, spiritual language, as if she is being elevated to another realm in the last line. On the other hand, she begins the poem with poetic hyperbole as she describes the exquisite liquor, but then deconstructs it to nothing more than air and dew, almost as if she’s torn between the two. Where does she belong? Better yet, where do we belong? Where do we ache to go? Perhaps drinking of this ne’er-brewed liquor can provide the reader with insight.