Compare and contrast ‘the day the lady died’ by Frank O’ Hara with ‘Mid-term break’ by Seamus Heaney. How do the poets deal with the experience of death and grief in two very different circumstances and culture?
In this essay I am going to compare and contrast two poems. One is ‘The Day The Lady Died’ by Frank O’ Hara and ‘Mid – Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney. Frank O ‘Hara was an American intellectual who wrote poems about understanding living and how to cope when a famous icon has a tragic death. He was used to the fast paced city life of New York. Where as Seamus Heaney was born in Ireland and he was used to the quite country life of the farming family. He attended St. Columb’s College in Derry where he was a border. Heaney went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Both poems deal with the grief of death in two different manners but with two different types of death. A public death and a personal death. I will be writing about the grief felt by both poets in the face of death and their reaction to the news. I will begin my analysis by exploring ‘The day the lady died’ by Frank O’Hara. The poems name shows that a memorable occasion has taken place. When you first look at the poems name you think it’s about any lady but Billy holidays nickname was the lady. She was named the lady because she was a cultural icon. She represented jazz, a certain type of sophistication and everything that was exciting about New York. Frank O'Hara talks about Billy Holiday as if he had some kind of link with her by the way he talks about her, like she's a close relative or friend. This poem starts in the everyday busy life of New York. As Frank O’Hara wakes up normally like every other day he deals with how he felt alienated in the crowded streets of New York. As he says “I don't know the people who will feed me”. This shows how anonymous the people of New York are. O'Hara goes on with his everyday routine and does things that tell us that he is a modern intellectual New Yorker. “Buy an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets of Ghana are doing these days” this shows that he is interested in the world around him and is interested with the literature the 3rd world country's are producing, showing that he is a man of sophisticated tastes. He then goes on to say that something isn’t right in his everyday script. Some thing had changed. Miss Stillwagon (first name Linder I heard once) Doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life”. This again shows the anonymity of New York. A complete stranger that every time Frank enters the bank she always makes time to check his bank balance but for this time she's distracted. For once something else was on her mind. It must have been something big to prevent her from checking his balance, but what was this distraction? Frank O'Hara was yet to discover. This poem is like a journey that leads to the point when he found out the shocking news of Holidays Death. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He reacted as if he didn't want it to be true. “ a NEW YORK POST with her face on it”. This shows us how shocked he is to the fact that she ain't no more like time had stopped for him as the busy streets of New York passed him by. This was major news, as big as 9/11 or the death of Tupac; a world effecting news that wouldn't be forgotten. Like a part of New York had died along with her. As it was the end of an era. Frank had also wrote the name of the news paper in capitals to show how important it was to him. It was how he found out of the tragic loss. He felt as if he needed time for the huge news to absorb before he understood that she was gone. He now knows why everyone was acting so strangely, even though he wished he didn’t. He didn't know what to do and how to express his feelings. The poem describes how it was such a big shock to him. “I am sweating by now and thinking of leaning on the John door in the 5 SPOT”. This shows us that he can’t take the news, its such a big blow to him...
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