The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday three days after Bastille day, yes it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun and have a hamburger and a malted and buy an UGLY NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets in Ghana are doing these days I go on to the bank and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)

doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or

Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine after practically going to sleep with quandariness and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE

Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT while she whispered a song along the keyboard to Mai Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

O'Hara is very spontaneous and immediate in this poem, explaining exactly what he did. He sought to capture this immediacy of life in his poetry, feeling that the work should be between two people instead of two pages. He called these poems "I do this, I do that" poems because they have a random physical movement to them. The natural feel, the random jumps and loose associations, are the core of these poems. They all tie very closely to Whitman's idea of a "great ramble". John Ashbery said of his friend O Hara: "O'Hara demonstrates that the act of creation and the finished creation are the same."

For O'Hara, as well as Whitman, the journey is always as important as the destination. O' Hara's assortment of topics in this poem is also interesting. He goes from the most mundane to the least pedestrian. Anything seemed like material that could be used for poetry: telephone calls, buying a newspaper, errands at the bank, his interest in movie stars. Throughout all of this O'Hara come across as a happy poet, and in that he is like Whitman. In terms of the language he uses O'Hara is very much like Whitman in that he employs everyday speech. He often sounds as if he's just speaking (or maybe writing a letter) to you, his audience. The directness of his voice is sometimes disarming, as in the last lines of his best-loved poem, "Steps":

In this poem, as well as "The Day Lady Died," O'Hara refuses to end the poems with any punctuation, leaving the work to hang much as Whitman does in many of his poems. Both poets are saying that there doesn't need to be an end, the end is not the object, and that the continued experience is what is important.

Love of New York City—the Primacy of Experience

Certainly, too, O'Hara and Whitman were both inspired and energized by New York City. O'Hara was known as the "poet of New York" of his own time. He moved to NYC in 1951 to join fellow poet John Ashbery, whom he had met at Harvard. In New York O'Hara was finally free to live openly as a homosexual and to indulge his interest in the arts. "The Day Lady Died" begins with a catalogue of all the city has to offer. And like Whitman, O'Hara saw the city for its good as well as its bad—its corruption as well as its beauties:

This is the city ... and I am one of the citizens;

Whatever interests the rest interests me ... politics, churches, newspapers, schools,

Benevolent societies, improvements, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, markets,

Stocks and stores and real estate and personal estate.

City of wharves and stores! City of tall facades of marble and iron!

Proud and passionate city! Mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!

—from Whitman's Leaves of Grass oh god its wonderful to get out of bed and, drink too much coffee and smoke too many cigarettes and love you so much

It is typical of both Whitman and O'Hara to find beautiful things in the most aggravating parts of the city. Both men fully embrace the city experience.

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