Marilyn the Poet

Fragments is reviewed in today’s Independent. While critic Arifa Akbar finds the publication of Marilyn’s private notes ‘voyeuristic’, she speaks admiringly of the Monroe poems:

“Her poems are, by far, the heart of the book. She describes the human spirit as a ‘cobweb in the wind’; a sleeping lover’s vulnerability is tenderly captured; a suicide fantasy turns on itself to celebrate the beauty of a world that Monroe is not ready to leave. Her depression, her romantic spirit, her impenetrable loneliness is all there, and these poems could have been published on their own, albeit, in a slimmer volume.”

Writing on his blog today, pop star Moby raves about Marilyn’s poetic gifts. ‘Do 25 year old movie stars in 2010 read James Joyce or Leaves of Grass?’ he ponders.

Perhaps Moby could set Marilyn’s words to music. I loved his 1999 album Play, which combined electronica with vintage blues, gospel and folk.

The Soulful Marilyn

Marilyn by Alfred Eisenstadt, 1953

“Although the material is new the editors in their foreword slightly exaggerate its meaning. They claim that in the 1950s Marilyn’s image had to be flawless. But I believe on the contrary, following Richard Dyer, that Marilyn’s star charisma was based from the beginning on the fact that she was able to reconcile huge contradictions. One of them was that she was known as the girl who read Rilke and Joyce on the sets of her dumb blonde vehicles. Even intelligent directors such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz were bluffed. They believed Marilyn actually to be the dumb blonde she played. Those who read her interviews at the time always knew otherwise. She was at her most perceptive in the ones she gave in 1962. These private notes collected from desk drawers provide more evidence of the soulful Marilyn.”

Antii Alanen, programmer at the Cinema Orion, Helsinski, reviews Fragments

The Goddess in the Library

Marilyn at home in 1952, by Andre de Dienes

The publication of Fragments has renewed interest in Marilyn’s literary side – and as one blogger noted this week, MM owned more than 400 books.

“The magic castle of Hollywood and her image had become a prison and she did what many of the incarcerated do to keep from going insane. She retreated into the private world of books  and explored her thoughts and feelings as a diarist and journal-keeper.” Book Tryst

Bernard Comment: Editing Marilyn’s Words

“The way Marilyn explored her own despair. It often leaves you reeling, and it is always touching. She was very generous, endlessly giving of herself. What also struck me was the poetic brilliance of some of the writing, although the style is never affected. We know that she got her friends to read these texts, especially the writer Norman Rosten. But they weren’t designed for publication. They are intimate, but always very chaste. I was never in the slightest embarrassed as I read them. I can tell you that there are no revelations about her sex life, or about the Kennedys.”

Swiss author Bernard Comment discusses Fragments, here

Vanity Fair: Analysing Marilyn

page 14

Pardon me
are you the janitors wife

page 147
caught a Greyhound
Bus from Monterey to Salinas. On the
Bus I was the person
woman with about
sixty Italian fishermen
and I’ve never met
sixty such charming gentlemen—they
were wonderful. Some
company was sending them
downstate where their boats
and (they hoped) fish were
waiting for them. Some
could hardly speak english
not only do I love Greeks
[illegible] I love Italians.
they’re warm, lusty and friendly
as hell—I’d love to go to
Italy someday.

From a 1951 notebook, written by Marilyn during filming of Love Nest. The first line is from the script; the second may have been written during filming of Clash by Night in Monterey less than a year later, shortly after her love affair with Italian-American baseball star Joe DiMaggio began.

This and other excerpts from Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters are featured in ‘Marilyn and her Monsters’, an article for November’s Vanity Fair. A complementary piece, ‘The Writing on the Wall’, analyses Marilyn’s large, extravagantly looped handwriting (which I have often seen as a reflection of her open, generous yet somehow elusive spirit.)

Isabel Keating Voices ‘Fragments’ CD

“In mid-October, Farrar Straus & Giroux will bring out a book called Fragments – purported to be a work of Marilyn Monroe’s writings, poems, notes, letters from her personal archive. Isabel Keating did the audio voice of Marilyn for the Macmillan Audio version of this sure-to-be-hot book.

She did the recording of the material on the anniversary of Marilyn’s death and says: ‘During the sessions, a small group of us realized the fact and a collective shiver was felt and a tear was shed … Whatever anyone thinks about the book itself, even the jottings of this famous woman evoke her spirit, her mind. They show her as a woman searching and hoping to amplify her experience. She wanted to improve herself and was reaching and searching. I found the work so smart – and so fragile.'”

Liz Smith on WowOwow today

Isabel Keating is an acclaimed stage actress, having played Judy Garland (Marilyn Monroe’s friend and one of her favourite singers) in the much-praised 2003 Broadway production, The Boy From Oz.

Marilyn’s Literary Loves

Marilyn reads Whitman in her apartment, 1952 – photo by John Florea

“Monroe, whose death at the age of 36 remains a mystery, was an avid reader and something of a culture vulture while she lived in New York, frequently visiting museums and attending plays. Not that she got any credit for her intellect. Michelle Morgan, who wrote Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, said: ‘She played ditzy blondes and for some reason people believed that was the person she was, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It’s intriguing that she seems to be one of the only actresses who people confuse with her parts. People believed she was a joke but she was always trying to better herself.'”

Previewing Fragments:Poems Intimate Notes, Letters, the upcoming collection of Marilyn Monroe’s writings, in today’s Independent