O'Hara uses lots of figurative language throughout this collection of poems. For example, in the first poem, entitled "Music," O'Hara uses a simile when the speaker says, "I am as naked as a table cloth." O'Hara, in the same poem, also uses a metaphor when he says that he "shall see (his) daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets." The simile here suggests that the speaker is unadorned, like a table cloth with no plates or cutlery laid upon it. The metaphor suggests that his daydreams are so real, and vivid, as to be tangible and substantial, like the "dogs in blankets."
In "The Day Lady Died," which is about the death of Billie Holiday, O'Hara writes that "everyone and I stopped breathing." This is another example of a metaphor. O'Hara did not of course literally stop breathing, but the metaphor conveys how shocked he was by the death of Billie Holiday. He felt as if he had been winded, as if by a punch to the stomach.
In the poem "Cambridge," O'Hara uses another figurative technique, known as pathetic fallacy. This is when a writer uses the weather to reflect the mood of the story or of a character. "Cambridge" opens with the line "It is still raining" and subsequently declares, "I may freeze to death." This cold, wintery setting reflects the mood of the speaker, who seems to be suffering from some kind of miserable, existential angst.
In another of the poems, entitled "Three Airs," O'Hara uses metaphor again when he declares that "the senses of the dead ... are banging about / inside my tired red eyes." This unique metaphor suggests that the speaker is haunted by sensory impressions of the dead. Later in the same poem, O'Hara uses symbolism when he describes "a sunset." A sunset is often used in literature to symbolize death or hopelessness. This is because sunset is associated with fading light, and light symbolizes hope. A sunset is also associated with increasing darkness, and darkness connotes death, loss, and emptiness. The speaker in this poem feels hopeless as he seems to be surrounded by "hideousness" and "slime."
Whether metaphor or simile, pathetic fallacy or symbolism, we can see from the aforementioned examples that O'Hara often uses figurative techniques to reflect the mood or feelings of the speaker.