51 Years Ago: The Poetry of Marilyn

Marilyn on the 20th Century Fox lot, 1947

Among the tributes that appeared on the 51st anniversary of Marilyn’s death, three stood out for me.

Over at Backlots, one of my favourite classic film blogs, some of Marilyn’s own poems and drawings were featured, with this commentary:

“August 5, 2013 marks 51 years since the death of Marilyn Monroe. Though I try to keep Marilyn to a minimum on this blog because of her overwhelming overexposure in the media, the fact remains that Marilyn may well be the most fascinating personality to come out of classic film. The appeal that she holds for the public is evident–it is difficult to walk into any gift shop without seeing her face plastered on posters, shirts, lunchboxes, wallets, purses, and mugs. She has become a sex icon for the ages, and more than any other star, she sells. But amid all the financial gain she brings to businesses Marilyn Monroe continues to be exploited, just as she was in life, robbed of her essence and dignity as a human being for the sake of profits. That is precisely what she was trying to get away from, and thus whenever I see Marilyn memorabilia in a gift store, I feel a twinge of sadness.

Whenever I do mention Marilyn on this blog (which is usually on her birthday and the anniversary of her death), I try to make it count. She was a fascinating human being, the complete antithesis to how the public perceived her. An introspective, observant, intelligent woman who read voraciously and was unusually articulate about herself and her craft, the blonde bombshell image crafted for her only served to exacerbate her inner conflicts and demons.”

Tumblr blogger Penny Dreadful selected ‘for marilyn m.‘, by the great Los Angeles writer, Charles Bukowski:

“slipping keenly into bright ashes,

target of vanilla tears

your sure body lit candles for men

on dark nights,

and now your night is darker

than the candle’s reach

and we will forget you, somewhat,

and it is not kind

but real bodies are nearer

and as the worms pant for your bones,

I would so like to tell you

that this happens to bears and elephants

to tyrants and heroes and ants

and frogs,

still, you brought us something,

some type of small victory,

and for this I say: good

and let us grieve no more;

like a flower dried and thrown away,

we forget, we remember,

we wait.  child, child, child,

I raise my drink a full minute

and smile.”

Finally, from Sunset Gun‘s Kim Morgan:

“One of the most personally arresting images I’ve ever seen of Marilyn Monroe came not from a movie or newsreel footage or one of her many photographs. It came from a blanket.

Driving through Death Valley on a long road trip, I stopped in a tiny town for gas and a cold drink. Few seemed to live in this town: it served as a pit stop, a place to either check your radiator or check your mind (or, in my case, both) — one of those locales that offers such a bare minimum of services that a candy bar has never tasted so good. Delirious from hours of 70 mph signposts, I stumbled back into my car, feeling as if modern civilization had melted around me. For months, I’d been working on a piece about Marilyn (a cover story for Playboy, to honor their first, and most famous, cover girl and centerfold), and she had been on my mind nearly every day.

And then … there she was. Driving away, I spied Marilyn on the side of the road, 20 feet from the gas station. With a mixture of excitement and a strange sadness, I jumped out of the car and stared. Her face was hanging from clothespins, blowing in the breeze, next to an open garage. A warm blanket in the hot sun, set against the blue sky, flapping and undulating in the merciful wind, her face changing shape and expression. This desolate desert Marilyn, so frank and alone, just hanging there, cleared away all the clutter of so many T-shirts, stickers, shower curtains, pillows, purses, wall clocks, and coffee mugs — all those Marilyns you walk right past in any given gift shop on Hollywood Boulevard. A little hypnotized and maybe a little crazy, I thought of how Marilyn described herself, as the woman who ‘belonged to the ocean and the sky and the whole world.'”