The Day Lady Died

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The Day Lady Died

“The Day Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara is an elegy (poem of pourning and

lament on someone’s demise) to Billie Holiday. O’Hara’s elegy is untraditional

in its form because the poem does not seem to be about Holiday at all until

only towards the end where she is described in the final lines of the poem.

Billie Holiday, the Jazz singer died of liver disease at a hospital in New York,

early morning on July 17, 1959. Frank O’Hara was walking around New York,

following her mundane routine when he gets to see a newspaper with Billie

Holiday’s face on it. O’Hara had been to several of her performances. He was

a fan of jazz music and Billie Holiday in particular. O’Hara almost

spontaneously wrote the poem “The Day Lady Died” in
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The poem ends with these ears coming back to life to

witness the Colonel’s crimes.

“Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground” burdened by this

tyrrany and in hope for brighter days to come around.

Mother to Son

“Mother to Son” by African-American poet Langston Hughes is a straight

forward poem. The title itself is so clear in identifying both the speaker and the

person to whom the words are addressed. By beginning with the word “Well”,

it sounds as if the mother is responding to her son’s query. She addresses her

son by “son” and not by using his proper name making their relationship as

universal and archetypal, as if this may be any other mother speaking to her

son. This implies that the son can be Langston Hughes but does not need to

be. It can as well be any other son.

The phrase “crystal stair” is intriguing in itself. The term is found in many texts

from the nineteenth century implying the glorious ascend from Earth to

Heaven. It is symbolic of wealth too as in this poem. However the speaker’s

stair has been the opposite of the “crystal stair”. Her stair is marked by [ain

and struggles as implied by the words “tacks”, “splinters”, and “boards torn
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