Singer Lana Del Rey has referenced Marilyn several times in her lyrics and music videos (see here.) The latest reference appears in ‘patent leather do-over‘, a spoken-word poem posted on Instagram this week, and to be featured in Lana’s forthcoming book, behind the iron gates – insights from an institution (due in 2021.)
“Sylvia, Marilyn, Violet, Diana All of my kind women who came before me, blonde I dyed my hair black for you I turned my back on that black pond I swear I won’t stop ’til I’m dead And here I am at 34 – And what for?”
The British poet Helen Morton has contributed a new poem, ‘Ms. Monroe,’ to the New York Times, as part of the ‘Mrs. Files‘ project, “looking at history through a contemporary lens to see what the honorific ‘Mrs.’ means to women and their identity.” (The illustration shown above is by Alf Buttons’ Revenge, based on a photo by Eve Arnold and a quote from Marilyn: “A career is made in public, talent in private.”)
“‘In America, a blonde is not just a blonde.’ — William K. Zinsser
When I first let the mirror see me in my high-street wedding dress, I lift the hem and laugh into the lace, all mock-Monroe, her skirt a breaking wave, her open mouth, her head tipped back, accepting a communion wafer from the sky.
I press my fingers to the glass and feel them pass through each reflection, every photograph and — sweet impossibility — rest against the raised hand of The Other Marilyn, not poster girl but poet, the woman who filled notebooks with her nightmares, dreams of emptying: the slab of the operating table, the eminent doctors, the neat incision and its big reveal, her insides nothing but sawdust. Marilyn Monroe: not Mrs. Miller, Mrs. DiMaggio.
We have been wearing our white dresses far too long — squeezing into spotlit silk, chiffon the colour of nothing. Palm to palm in the mirror, she swims towards me now and surfaces, tears at her cream bodice, opens the skin underneath, unfolds her heart and lungs
and what’s within her isn’t dust or hollowness but a litany, a roll call, the true names of men: Diego Kahlo, Johnny Carter, Jackson Krasner, Martin Luther Scott and in the nameless dusk she repeats them all until they seem beautiful. I can’t stop reading her lips.”
“A set of two books; the first The Woman Who Was Poor by Leon Bloy, hardcover, no dust jacket, published in 1947; the second Lidice by Eleanor Wheeler, hardcover, dust jacket, published in 1957.”
SOLD for $4,375
“A receipt from Morgan Smith Jeweler located in Reno, Nevada, dated November 11, 1960, for the purchase of three Navajo rugs and a sterling silver bead necklace. Marilyn had been staying in Reno while filming The Misfits.”
SOLD for $320
A brass mechanism with a mother of pearl push button doorbell, previously wired, now not in working order; used by Marilyn in her Brentwood home which she bought in 1962.
SOLD for $3,840
“A glass coupe design champagne glass with a bulbous stem, ‘Marilyn’ is etched on the outside rim so it can be read while sipping from it; a gift to the star for her birthday from her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson.” [And sold separately, a photo of Marilyn by George Barris.]
Glass sold for $6,250; photo sold for $768
“An ornate, Italian-style, carved wood corner chair with olive green velvet upholstery; one of the star’s own chairs that was in her newly-purchased Brentwood home when Life magazine photographer Allan Grant took a number of photographs of her sitting in and on it to accompany an article written by Richard Meryman in July 1962; Monroe wore high heels that day which caused a small tear in the upholstery (which can still be seen) and she also slightly cracked the frame as she sat on top of the chair … Included are two letters: one from 1977 noting that a Joanne Raksin bought this chair directly from Inez Melson [Monroe’s business manager] and one from years later outlining how Raksin sold it to another person.”
Chair SOLD for $$81,250; photos SOLD for $768
“A three-page handwritten letter from Grace Goddard, Marilyn Monroe’s former foster mother, dated July 8, 1953. In the letter, Goddard informs Monroe that she had written to C.S. Publishing [Christian Science] on behalf of Mrs. Gladys P. Eley (Monroe’s mother, formerly Gladys Monroe Baker Mortensen) to renew her subscription for C.S. Literature. Goddard also informs Monroe that her mother is ‘improving and seems happy in her nursing.’ Goddard also states that she sent Eley a pair of white shoes along with a personal letter, which Eley received and was happy about.”
SOLD for $437.50
A standard issue United Airlines ticket for a flight the star took on March 18, 1954 from Los Angeles to San Francisco using the name ‘Mrs. Joseph DiMaggio.’
SOLD for $1,024
“A single sheet of stationery from Parkside House, the English manor where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller stayed in Surrey while Monroe filmed The Prince and the Showgirl in London in 1956. The page contains a mournful handwritten poem in pencil on front of sheet with multiple strikethroughs and edits, reading in full, ‘Where his eyes rest with pleasure-I/ want to still be-but time has changed/ the hold of that glance./ Alas how will I cope when I am/ even less youthful-/ I seek joy but it is clothed/ with pain-/ take heart as in my youth/ sleep and rest my heavy head/ on his breast for still my love/ sleeps beside me.'”
SOLD for $6,250
“A one-page typed letter from an author’s representative by the name of Alex Jackinson dated September 7, 1957. The letter references a query Jackinson had received regarding Marilyn Monroe’s family heritage and a potentially forthcoming news article mentioning Edward Mortensen’s daughter, who was claiming to be Monroe’s half-sister. Mortensen was listed as Monroe’s father on her birth certificate; however, it is known today that Stanley C. Gifford is Monroe’s biological father. The Jackinson letter reads in part, ‘One of the unhappy aspects of agenting is that articles come along which I would rather they did not, such as the one about which I am now writing. For the story concerns you, your father(?) and half-sister (?). The enclosed query is something which I received from Graham Fisher, one of my English clients.’ The letter continues, ‘He came across the story about your alleged family from a Scandinavian source. Once the query was in my hands, I sent it to THE AMERICAN WEEKLY. They showed an interest in running the story, but expressed some doubt as to the authenticity of Mr. Mortensen being your father. At any rate, I would not be a party to the sale unless the story had your okay.’ A copy of the article is included in this lot. It reads in part, ‘Living quietly in the small military town of Holback, 30 miles from Copenhagen, is a baker’s wife whose sister is the most famous movie-star in the world. Yes Mrs. Olava Nielsen has never seen her famous sister, Marilyn Monroe, in the movies.’ The article continues, ‘Her father, Mortensen, was a Norwegian who left for the United States in 1924 to check on the prospects of immigration. His wife, however, decided against leaving her native Norway. The result – Mr. Mortensen fell in love with a follies dancer in the states … and Marilyn Monroe was born. When the scandal leaked back to Norway, his wife and family found life embarrassingly difficult and moved to Denmark.’ Interestingly, Monroe s birth certificate reads ‘Mortenson’ while the article reads ‘Mortensen.’ The word ‘Answered’ is handwritten in pencil on the original letter from Jackinson.”
SOLD for $750
“A pair of letters from the North American Newspaper Alliance regarding Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller’s requested appearance at the organization’s annual cocktail party. The first letter, dated March 26, 1958, reads in part, ‘Since your husband and you have been nice enough to come other years, we would like it very much to have you – and will miss you if you cannot make it.’ The second letter, dated July 2, 1958, sent to Lois Weber, Monroe’s publicist, reads in part, ‘Tell her we were disappointed that she could not attend the annual cocktail party, but I don’t blame her because I think cocktail parties are a pain in the neck, anyway, and she has been very patient in the past.’ Both letters are signed by John N. Wheeler.”
Killing Floor, a prize-winning 1979 collection from a poet named Ai, has been republished by Tavern Books, as Robert Harn reports for the Portland Mercury.
“There’s a vital socio-political edge to Killing Floor. Ai attempts to reckon with the horrors of the past, acknowledging everything from the violence that occurred in Mexico following the election of Manuel Ávila Camacho to the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe. Killing Floor holds important messages of empathy and survival that many still need to hear.”
I managed to find an extract from the Marilyn-related poem in this contemporary review from the Washington Post. ‘She Didn’t Even Wave’ is dedicated to Marilyn although the subject is a woman killed by lightning. It did remind me a little of Norma Jeane and her tenuous relationship with her mentally ill mother Gladys.
“Let me wave goodby
Mama never got a chance to do it.
She was walking toward the barn when it struck her. I didn’t move;
I just stood at the screen door.
Her whole body was light.
I’d never seen anything so beautiful.
I remember how she cried in the kitchen a few minutes before.
She said, ‘God. Married.
I don’t believe it, Jean, I won’t.
He takes and takes and you just give.’
At the door, she held out her arms and I ran to her . . .
Then she walked outside.
And I kept saying, I’ve got to, Mama, hug me again. Please don’t go. . . .”
On August 4th, 1962 – a balmy Saturday evening not unlike this one – Marilyn Monroe bid her housekeeper goodnight and retired to the bedroom of her modest Los Angeles home. She would never wake again, and on Sunday morning, the world learned of her death. On this sad anniversary, here’s an ode to America’s dream girl from an indigenous poet.
drives herself to the reservation. Tired and cold,
she asks the Indian women for help.
Marilyn cannot explain what she needs
but the Indian women notice the needle tracks
on her arms and lead her to the sweat lodge
where every woman, young and old, disrobes
and leaves her clothes behind
when she enters the dark of the lodge.
Marilyn’s prayers may or may not be answered here
but they are kept sacred by Indian women.
Cold water is splashed on hot rocks
and steam fills the lodge. There is no place like this.
At first, Marilyn is self-conscious, aware
of her body and face, the tremendous heat, her thirst,
and the brown bodies circled around her.
But the Indian women do not stare. It is dark
inside the lodge. The hot rocks glow red
and the songs begin. Marilyn has never heard
these songs before, but she soon sings along.
Marilyn is not an Indian, Marilyn will never be an Indian
but the Indian women sing about her courage.
The Indian women sing for her health.
The Indian women sing for Marilyn.
Finally, she is no more naked than anyone else.
Permission to open ‘The Marilyn’, a new speakeasy-style cocktail on Monroe Street, NYC, has been denied, Bowery Boogie reports. Monroe Street is in the Two Bridges district of Manhattan. While in theory it sounds like perfect branding, it seems the developers failed to address residents’ concerns.
Two Bridges is located near the footings of the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, the subject of a touching 1955 poem by Marilyn…
Marilyn and the 19th century American poet, Emily Dickinson, are the dual inspirations for I tvillingarnas tecken (In the Characters of the Twins), a 2015 collection by Eva-Stina Byggmastar, a Swedish poet living in Finland.
‘She surprises us readers with poems addressed to Marilyn Monroe and Emily Dickinson,’ a review notes. ‘Monroe and Dickinson become trustworthy guides through the wandering of the soul’s landscape – a walk towards acceptance of an honest, more sensitive and more lively self.’ Unfortunately, the book is not available in English.
While on the surface, the two women may appear to be polar opposites (Emily was famously reclusive), Marilyn had more in common with her than meets the eye, as she also wrote poetry and owned a volume of Dickinson’s selected works, as catalogued by Christie’s in 1999.
Vintage website Flashbak has compiled transcripts of Marilyn’s poetry, as well as a list of the 430 books she owned (first posted here on ES Updates, of course!) They have also included a quote from the English novelist Jeannette Winterson about Eve Arnold’s famous photos of Marilyn reading Ulysses.
“This is so sexy, precisely because it’s Marilyn reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. She doesn’t have to pose, we don’t even need to see her face, what comes off the photo is absolute concentration, and nothing is sexier than absolute concentration. There she is, the goddess, not needing to please her audience or her man, just living inside the book. The vulnerability is there, but also something we don’t often see in the blonde bombshell; a sense of belonging to herself. It’s not some Playboy combination of brains and boobs that is so perfect about this picture; it is that reading is always a private act, is intimate, is lover’s talk, is a place of whispers and sighs, unregulated and usually unobserved. We are the voyeurs, it’s true, but what we’re spying on is not a moment of body, but a moment of mind. For once, we’re not being asked to look at Marilyn, we’re being given a chance to look inside her.”
On Friday, August 3, 1962, Marilyn called her close friend Norman Rosten and talked about her plans to visit New York that fall, urging him joyfully, ‘Let’s start to live before we get old.’ By Sunday, the world was mourning her death. Norman wrote this poem while Marilyn was still alive, but she never had a chance to read it.
“We who spread the rainbow under glass
And weigh the most elusive sky and air,
Of that clan I come to track your heart –
But I’m baffled by those loose strands of hair.
You stand, finger at your lips, lost
In a long-abandoned heaven. No one within,
The angels gone, and all the harps undone.
What legend draws you there? O hurry down!
Surely your home’s with us, and not the gods.
Below your sealed window as you watch,
A river barge goes by, someone waves,
You laugh and throw a kiss for him to catch.
You’re not to be rescued wholly in this world.
It must be so. As many are saved,
That many drown. I see you clinging
To rooms, to phones, forgotten to be loved.”