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
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
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?

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