28 November 2012

the day lady died.

Build Up to Breathless
Fran O’Hara takes the air from your lungs. Literally. 

In The Day Lady Died Frank O’Hara fashions an elegy from a breakneck paced laundry list of the “mundane”. He uses his stream-like style to build momentum throughout the poem, until the reader is left breathless at the same moment the narrator finds himself breathless in the 5 Spot club listening to Billie Holiday sing.

O’Hara opens with two stanza’s of his daily routine, bringing in specific “day planner” information from the first line. We know immediately the concrete physical setting of the poem: 12:20 pm in New York City on Friday the 17th of July 1959 (lines 1-3). We see the narrator with a long list of things to do, and think before his 4:19 train to Easthampton (lines 8-19). These two stanza’s (2 and 3) utilise a flowing stream of consciousness enabled by his use of enjambment and his not using full stop punctuation (either here or anywhere else in the poem). Stanza two reads: 

“I walk up the muddy 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” 

each line continues to the next with the rapid fire connection of a person rattling off their to-do list. The following stanza continues this technique; with a first line indented to the end of the stanza before, the sense to the reader is to just keep reading without the moment of breath usually reserved for the stanza break. The momentum only continues to build throughout stanza’s three and four. O’Hara uses the tangent here to bring more information (and speed) to the text. These bits of information serve to provide context to the piece; producing an intellectual context with which to understand the narrator’s perspective. Each new piece of information left unseparated from the surrounding content by any sort of firm punctuation, also serves to give the reader no choice other than continuing the pace. This form mimics the sensation of walking in New York City. The speed and dexterity with which O’Hara moves between ideas and information emulates the movement of pedestrians navigating busy city streets and short lunch hours. There isn’t a moment for reflection. 

Until, that is, the narrator sees a newspaper with the information that Billie Holiday has died printed in the headline. This moment serves as a turn in the poem, when the narrator is forced to drastically slow his breakneck pace and descend into memory (though he doesn’t allow the reader that same luxury). Stanza’s one through four anchor the reader very much in the present with their concrete imagery such as; “I just stroll into PARK LANE liquor store and ask for a bottle of Strega” (lines 20-21), and “It is 12:20 in New York a Friday” (line 1). When we arrive at the final stanza, however, the narrator is jolted away from the present and returns to memory in his moment of grief. The momentum continues its pace, and leaves the reader breathless even as O’Hara reaches that breathless moment of memory listening to Lady Day’s voice in the nightclub of the final stanza. 

Frank O'Hara's The Day Lady Died (full poem).

26 November 2012

life on mars

"Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere."

-Tracy K. Smith, from The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack in her pulitzer prize winning book, Life on Mars.

22 November 2012

poetry vlog #1: I really tried not to bore you to death.

POETRY VLOG #1: negative capability, personal poetry, & a tangent about Emily Dickinson from Natalie Raymond on Vimeo.
My apartment is really messy & I move my hands around too much when I talk. Here's my first ever poetry vlog in which I ramble on & on about negative capability & confessional poetics! Doesn't that sound THRILLING?

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urban/nature #1 from Natalie Raymond on Vimeo

19 November 2012

Loves: Madame X

I ventured to The Met on saturday with a friend & sat for a bit in front of one of my favourite paintings, Sargent's Madame X. I have always been drawn to this particular painting because of its simplicity and elegance. Sitting in front of it this weekend I realised also how inherently sexy it is.

Sargent painted it without the presence, but with the permission, of Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, a socialite who was known for her daring fashion choices. Sargent wanted to expand his showing presence & intended the portrait for this purpose. 

The original painting, however, was met with ridicule & astonishment. In it, Mrs. Gautreau's right dress strap was falling down her shoulder & this became something of a scandal. After the showing Sargent repainted the strap to its current position & then stashed the painting away for over thirty years.

He later sold it to The Met with the stipulation that its model's name not be mentioned, saying; "I suppose it's the best thing I've done". The Met titled it Madame X & has had it on display ever since.

Sargent & Madame X
There is something so sensual in the way Sargent paints these upper crust ladies... Something spontaneous and breathless about them. My friend mentioned how the redness of Madame's ear makes her feel alive, & I couldn't agree more. It seems to hint at the blood coursing through her veins. So much of her skin is bare, & the turn of her head revealing her throat is incredibly intimate & trusting. I think it is a very erotic piece.

I also think Mr. Gautreau is a lucky man!


tragic & depressing stories

It's thanksgiving week y'all & while others are planning huge feasts or buying outrageously expensive plane tickets back home I am organizing my movie collection and way over-thinking season one of The Walking Dead (I just started watching). If that's not tragic then I don't know what is!

Perhaps I'll have a diet dr pepper chug-a-thon while watching all six versions of Pride & Prejudice currently in my DVD collection... that sounds like a good day.

(but seriously, the plan is vegan soul food in the village & lots o laughs... there probably will be a lot of diet dr pepper involved though).


13 November 2012

Poetry Is a Destructive Force

That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart. 
It is to have or nothing. 

It is a thing to have, 
A lion, an ox in his breast, 
To feel it breathing there.

Corazon, stout dog, 
Young ox, bow-legged bear, 
He tastes its blood, not spit. 

He is like a man 
In the body of a violent beast. 
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun. 
Its nose is on its paws. 
It can kill a man.

-wallace stevens. 

11 November 2012

i found this self portrait today... 
taken in bushwick brooklyn in 2009. 

04 November 2012

after the wind

Yesterday I decided to take a (brisk) walk through Prospect Park on my way to the Community Bookstore in Park Slope. I needed Susan Howe's book, My Emily Dickinson, in order to maintain my sanity. The park has been largely cleaned up since the storm (semi-unfortunately, I love disaster tours) but there were still down trees and a general leaf-mess everywhere. I managed to snag some good video footage, which I'm working on turning into a video piece of some kind... my ambitions in video art are far ahead of my editing abilities (as anyone who's seen my vimeo knows), but I needed a break from regular writing (between MFA thesis, my own little endeavors, and explorations in freelancing, I'm permeated with words of late).

Selections from after the storm: