Brooklyn Poet Reads Letter From Marilyn

As all true fans will know, Marilyn loved to read – and was a gifted writer herself. Norman Rosten, the ‘Bard of Brooklyn’, was one of her closest friends. On her Sunset Gun blog, Kim Morgan transcribes Marilyn’s eloquent letter to her psychoanalyst, Dr. Ralph Greenson, written during a 1961 hospital stay – and relates how another Brooklyn poet, John Ashbery, came to read it, over half a century later.

John Ashbery, photographed by David Shankbone in 2010

“While in New York this February, I carried this letter in my bag, wandering around the snowy city, almost afraid I’d lose it if I left it in my hotel room. It’s a sad letter, and I was clinging to it, for my own reasons beyond research. A friend gave me a copy of the *real* letter … he found the papers years ago while working on a Monroe documentary about the making (and unmaking) of Something’s Got to Give. I was doing research for a current project and this letter was essential. The third day in the city, it was my honor to visit the poet John Ashbery at his apartment in Chelsea. He noticed me pulling out the six-paged typed papers from a magazine I was giving him — I said — ‘This was written by Marilyn Monroe.’ He wanted to read it. I handed it to him and, to my delight, he read it aloud, beautifully, commenting on how lovely the first paragraph was. He joked, ‘Watch out. I might steal some of this!’ He scanned through M.M.’s raw, powerful and frequently witty words, reading passages he liked. The moment was tremendously moving, listening and watching John read (‘Was it Milton who asked, The happy ones were never born?’) and I asked if he would sign the letter. I felt the occasion needed to be marked — John Ashbery reading original writing by Marilyn Monroe. Two titans. He happily laughed and signed the letter. I thought that would make Marilyn happy.”