Lana Turner has collapsed – Frank O’Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed

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

Frank O’Hara (1926 - 1956)

This is New York and the weather is not good, and the guy is in a hurry to reach an appointment. He is walking with a friend. And to add to his rush is the fact that it has started to rain and snow. This is very annoying. Who hasn’t been in a similar situation and found the weather irritating? His friend said it is hail. But he has his eye on the weather and knows it is not hail, he knows that it would hit him. So in his irritated mood he must correct his friend; if only mentally.

And the traffic is like the weather annoyingly holding things up in his rush to reach his destination. It is that everything going against you type of thing that we all experience from time to time when the one thing we are trying to do is stopped continually by events happening around us.

Poetically these lines marry in with the rush when you say them quickly. And although it is not a sonnet it has that marked change as the whole key to the poem is in a repeat of the title. The title in capitals. And this guy’s mindset has totally changed. And all that irritation has been subdued by the fact that ‘Lana Turner has collapsed’. Wow, it is there on a newsstand, and it hits much harder to the head than any hail! Well, you don’t really have to know anything about Lana Turner other that it is significant to this guy who is hurrying along the street.

And the last six lines deal with the total change in thought. California and Hollywood come to mind. The weather in California is a little different from New York! And we can now assume that Lana is a party-party high flying actress of some prominence. And like Lana this guy is known to behave disgracefully at times. And the plea is for Lana to get up akin to his likewise ability when in similar circumstances.

Frank O’Hara on Wikipedia

The Day is Done – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Analysis

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
   Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
   From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
   Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
   That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
   That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
   As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
   Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
   And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
   Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
   Through the corridors of Time. 
For, like strains of martial music,
   Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
   And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
   Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
   Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
   And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
   Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
   That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
   The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
   The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
   And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
   And as silently steal away.
Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

Mention of Longfellow immediately reminds me of the ‘Song of Hiawatha’ and the associated rhyme and rhythm and there is likewise a similar sense of musicality in this poem with the second and fourth line of each stanza rhymed. And there is that iambic flow with unstressed and stressed syllables as you read the stanzas; as in the opening lines – the day is done and the darkness / falls from the wings of night.

This is a poem all about sadness and there is that gentle soft fall of sadness akin to a feather wafting down to the ground by an eagle personified as the fall of night. As though the night has taken away something beautiful. The eagle is no longer seen. At the same time something beautiful remains by the feather slowly floating down.

So what is left at the end of the day is just a feather. The end of the day is often seen as a poetic suggestion to the end of life. So here is something beautiful left behind blowing in the wind and disappearing in the night.

Then the lights of the village are blurred as though the sadness has affected the poet’s vision. And there is sorrow with the sadness like with mist and rain; implying perhaps that the sorrow is not overwhelming.

And there is an ask for a simple poem. Not martial words or words from the great masters.  But for a poem from the heart from a humble poet, and someone who has gone through many trials of life but found joy despite all the difficulties. Metaphorical defined as showers from the clouds of summer. And associated with the ask for a poem is an ask for a reading of the poem, for a voice to be heard as a song to enhance the words. The choice of the poem is left up to the reader.

And if this occurs and the request successful cares will disappear akin to Arabs packing up their tents and stealing away. I like the thought that poetry can steal negative emotion and be uplifting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Wikipedia – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Wikipedia

Machines – Michael Donaghy – Analysis

Dearest, note how these two are alike;
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.
Michael Donaghy (1954 – 2004)
from ‘Dances Learned Last Night’

Pavane – a stately court dance
Ptolemy – An ancient Greek astronomer, who proposed a way of calculating the movements of the planets on the assumption that they, along with the sun and the stars, were embedded in clear spheres that revolved around the Earth.
Schwinn – Ignaz Schwinn’s passion for bicycles led him to produce some of the most iconic designs and significant mechanical innovations in cycling.
Dante – famous Italian poet who wrote ‘The Inferno’

The conceit is to compare the bicycle with the harpsicord. Two very unlike machines and I found it hard to identify the harpsicord as a machine, but both are human built to perform quite different functions. The poem explores the similarities. And at the forefront of the comparison both requite human skill for successful operation. And both require the use of hands and feet.

The key attribute is balance. And unlike the harpsichord if you lose balance on a bike, you can easily fall and injure yourself. When starting to use a bike you start to move and then balance. Perhaps there is a bit of a wobble at first. And, if successful, you continue to balance as you move. Balance in playing a musical instrument is another matter.

But by mentioning Ptolemy the entire world can be considered a machine. His mathematical ideas falsely equated the earth as the center with all other bodies revolving around in concentric circular motion. And the concept is that by the effortless gadgetry of love the machines can be used to create something quite beautiful like Dante’s journey to Heaven in his famous Inferno poem.

For the world to move and evolve with love as the blood force balance is perhaps the key. This is quite difficult of course for- ‘so much is chance, so much agility, desire, and feverish care’. And the world of today is out of balance as we try to correct for the injuries made by humans to the environment.

People love their machines. And on a personal note, as a keen cyclist, I have come to love a racing bike I acquired about eighteen months ago. But it has taken me about that time to really adjust to it including adapting a few accessories to make it exactly as I want it when riding. And after extensive service and new chain and different gear set it is just wonderful to glide along the many cycle paths in Canberra. And I am sure we all have a particular special item we adore. And if we extend the thought from this poem to the world and the life we lead then love is needed as we evolve. Quite a balancing act

Michael Donaghy on Wikipedia Michael Donaghy – Wikipedia

I am the great sun – Charles Causley – Analysis

The following sonnet was composed by Charles Causley when he was inspired after viewing a 1632 Normandy crucifix.

I am the great sun 

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
  I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you d o not free me,
  I am the captain but you will not obey.

I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
  I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
  I am that God to whom you will not pray.

I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
  I am your lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
  I am the holy dove whom you will slay.

I am your life, but if you will not name me,
  Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

Charles Causley (1917 – 2003)

Each of the three quartets gives metaphoric representation to the attributes that might be associated with Christ.

sun, husband, captive, captain,
truth, city, wife, God,
counsel, lover, victor, dove

There are many I am statements in the Bible …
I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
I am the Door (John 10:9)
I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14)
I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
I am the Vine (John 15:1,5)

The Crucifix is such an emotive icon. What it represents to the individual is unique. The personal response is so varied. I am are the most important two words in the whole of the Bible?

Looking at the first line. The Sun is great. The sun is the Centre of our solar system. We revolve around the Sun. The Sun gives life, warmth, energy, and growth. It is a fact that the Earth is actually falling towards the Sun, but only very slowly!

But the poem is a lamentation on the failure of mankind; failure to be enlightened. And considering what is happening in the world today perhaps it is man-unkind.

Following the list quartets, the closing couplet gives emphatic statement that recognition is up to you. There is personal choice involved.

I am the seed that you must water
I am the plant that you must nurture 
you are the fruit I want to see 
harvested for the sake of me

The following image is the Cross at the Salvation Army Hall, Batemans Bay, NSW. This Cross an empty crucifix. We may wonder where Christ is today!

Christ is within for all to discover.

Charles Causley is a background underrated poet. Ted Hughes highly regarded him, and they were good friends. Charles Causley on Wikipedia – Charles Causley – Wikipedia

And here is another of his famous poems concerning disability.

The Liverpool Poets – Roger McGough – Comeclose and Sleepnow

At a recent U3A meeting we looked at ‘The Liverpool Poets’ who were were/are a number of influential 1960s poets from Liverpool, England, influenced by 1950s Beat poetry. They were involved in the 1960s Liverpool scene that gave rise to The Beatles.

Their work is characterised by its directness of expression, simplicity of language, suitability for live performance and concern for contemporary subjects and references. There is often humour, but the full range of human experience and emotion is addressed.

The poets that are most associated with this label are Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. They were featured in a 1967 book The Liverpool Scene edited by Edward Lucie-Smith, with a blurb by Ginsberg and published by Donald Carroll.

The anthology The Mersey Sound was published by Penguin in 1967, containing the poems of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, and has remained in print ever since, selling in excess of 500,000 copies. It brought the three poets to “considerable acclaim and critical fame”, and has been widely influential. In 2002 they were given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.

Consider the following period student piece poem by Roger McGough …

Comeclose and Sleepnow 

it is afterwards 
and you walk on tiptoe 
happy to be part 
of the darkness 
lips becoming limp 
a prelude to tiredness. 
Comeclose and Sleepnow 
for in the morning 
when a policeman 
disguised as the sun 
creeps into the room 
and your mother 
disguised as birds 
calls from the trees 
you will put on a dress of guilt
and shoes with broken high ideals 
and refusing coffee 

Roger McGough (1937 …)

You have to look back to the sixties when the pill was in its infancy – perhaps an unfortunate choice of words and when sex before marriage was frowned on by families for many reasons. And this is a poem about loss of virginity perhaps. And it is about a female partner participating in sex written from a male perspective.

The first six lines set the scene describing the aftermath after being thrown in at the first line. And the ‘happy to be part of the darkness’ sets the mood of female guilt at what has happened.

And then the repeat of the title ‘Comeclose and Sleepnow’. This gives emphasis to the male plea to focus away from the guilt to be together and sleep. And what RM has cleverly done is to create two new joined words that emphasise the demand for being together and sleeping.

But the morning will bring the coverup. Dressed in guilt with broken high ideals.  The sun will show light on what has happened and the birds will be unheard as mother’s voice is all the focus. And refusing coffee is a such a heavy sentence and worse than roast beef in that rush home.

Consider that well known nursery rhyme.

This little piggy went to market, 
This little piggy stayed home, 
This little piggy had roast beef, 
This little piggy had none.

This little piggy went ... 
Wee, wee, wee, 
all the way home!

The modern construction of this poem would imply that it was written as a reflective piece later in life. And on a personal note, I can easily identify with the period relevant to this poem. I spent three years in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the nineteen sixties where I studied for a mathematics and statistics degree at Bradford University.

Roger McGough is a performance poet, broadcaster, children’s author and playwright. He presents the BBC Radio 4 programme Poetry Please, as well as performing his own poetry. McGough was one of the leading members of the Liverpool poets, a group of young poets influenced by Beat poetry and the popular music and culture of 1960s Liverpool. He is an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University, fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and President of the Poetry Society.

Roger McGough on Wikipedia

A link to Poetry Please

The Birds – Philip Hodgins – Comments

The Birds
The time is nearly five a.m.
and all the birds are on the go.
They sound just like the frequencies
of many twiddled radios.

It's really bad the way it's gone ―
I always used to sleep okay
and dream and miss the rural life
and never see the break of day.

But since I got the only part
in cancer's scripted dialogue
I've heard those birds a million times
and seen the sun come up a lot.

I've been rehearsing death each night,
and still I haven't got it right.

Philip Hodgins (1959 – 1995)

Philip Hodgins died at such an early age after having a blood cancer. Much of his later poetry was associated with living with such a debilitating and terminal condition. And the closing couplet of this sonnet defines his despair at still being alive – ‘I’ve been rehearsing death each night’.

Clearly the bird chorus of early dawn irritates him. And who hasn’t been irritated by fiddling with the frequencies on a radio in trying to find a station? And in the second stanza it looks as though he used to sleep-in in the morning, indicating a fully engaged vibrant social nightlife.

He considers life to be a play where he has been given a nasty script. And he alone has that once only part indicating that all his contemporaries will live on as he waits for the final act.

Philip Hodgins on Wikipedia – Philip Hodgins – Wikipedia

Of interest, the legislative authority of the Australian Capital Territory is about to consider how to deal with the legality of euthanasia.

euthanasia = the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma

The Eagle – Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Eagle
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1850 - 1892)

When I first started taking an interest in poetry this poem was given to me as an entry point to define poetic expression in terms of a simple text. It certainly did that and looking at it again today it still invokes admiration.

L1 … Rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration and then personification as claws are transformed into hands. We have become the eagle. Clasps give strength to the fact of maintaining a strong hold. It gives a sense of safety. The many times I go to a lookout I make sure I am safe as I look down.

L2 … Of course, the Eagle is not close to the sun. We know the sun and moon appear to be the same size though the sun is millions of miles away. But this is where the eagle lives and it is not our world, another lonely world. Hopefully, a world far away from the flight path of planes. But lonely suggests the eagle has the sky space to itself.

L3 … He is now standing rather than perched and he is ringed with the azure (bright blue cloudless sky). And we immediately have a picture of dominance against a perfect sky background. Of all birds the eagle is the lion of the sky.

L4 … You will not get a better word than wrinkled to describe the sea from a great height on a quiet day. And the fact that it crawls gives emphasis that it is below and subservient to the eagle.

L5 … This is his lookout where he spends time watching. This is his nature and way of living. So you have a still set in the mind of the reader. A waiting and that comma is so important at the end of the line. When reading it give a pause!

L6 … The thunderbolt dynamism of the last line. The contrast from being still and the crawling sea as we become the falling eagle (not diving or swooping) but falling. I am told birds do close in their feathers tight to provide greater speed in movement at the start of their dive. Therefore, falls may have a factual element as well.

Some time ago my daughter took a photograph of a sea-eagle. When she zoomed the image it had a fish in its claws. You must hand it to the eagle for such fishing skill.

Alfred Lord Tennyson on Wikipedia

Gratitude to Old Teachers – Robert Bly – Comments

Gratitude to Old Teachers

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight—
We were students then— holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

Robert Bly (1926 – 2021)

I did like this simple poem as Robert Bly is not always easy to fathom (excuse the pun).

The journey of life is like a walk across a frozen lake. And I remember as an eight-year-old testing a frozen pond with parts too thin to walk on. Our walk or life journey is unique, and we walk on the unwalked.

We have underneath support from others all our life. Sometimes completely unknown to us of course. And if we have a spiritual belief maybe we have some form of spiritual guidance. Robert Bly is saying the ice is thickest when we are young for it is at that stage that we need most support; not getting ourselves runover on the roads or in his poem not drowning. And indeed, maybe others prepare for our future stepping in the journey of life, whether a mile or greater distance.

The ‘all around us the stillness’ text does suggest that those that have provided support are no longer alive, or alive to us. And the title ‘Gratitude to Old Teachers’ would suggest the same. And we should be thankful to those that have helped keep us dry.

Something to consider – to what extent do we carry latent within ourselves the influence of others. And is there help when the ice is thin? And like the iceberg is memory all underneath until perhaps it is needed and comes to the surface.

And Teachers of course never retire.

Robert Bly – Wikipedia