Marilyn and Emily Dickinson Inspire Swedish Poet

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.

Thanks to Jerker Bergstrom at Immortal Marilyn

Thoughts on Marilyn, Ulysses, and Poetry

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.”

55 Years Ago: A Poem for Marilyn

Photo by Bert Stern, 1962

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.”

Australia’s Marilyn Moment

Marilyn-Monroe-Exhibition-4

Following two major exhibitions in Bendigo and Albury, it can be said that 2016 (so far) has been Australia’s Year of Marilyn. Journalist Inga Walton has also made a significant contribution with ‘A Moment With Marilyn’, her detailed and insightful four-part series for Trouble magazine, which you can read here.

“There is something of the universal fable in Monroe’s story, in the way tales are re-cast, with a different setting, for a new generation. There is also an unmistakable touch of the heroic about her, given where she came from and where she went. ‘We take her seriously as an artist and person, a liberated woman before it became fashionable, who won an honoured place and lost her life,’ Norman Rosten attests. ‘A woman of obscure beginnings who studied and struggled against great odds to create a life of dignity and respect. She confronted a world of caste and prejudice; she broke into the clear for herself and others.’

There are myriad reasons for Monroe’s inextricable hold over generations of audiences. Her unique and intoxicating combination of beauty, talent, sensuality, impulsiveness, and emotional turmoil continues to beguile and haunt. Monroe’s life was plagued by frailty, isolation, and self-doubt. She suffered from the thwarted ambition and unfulfilled promise that afflicts so many of us- and yet she demonstrated great resilience. We have come to empathise with Monroe’s faults, feel compassion for the many challenging aspects of her life, and applaud her candour. Sometimes it seems as though the desperate pathos of her tragic demise might threaten to overwhelm the pleasure her work continues to bring. It is as though Monroe anticipated this paradox when she mused,

Life- I am both of your directions,
Somehow remaining hanging downward,
The most, but strong as a cobweb in the wind-
I exist more with the cold glistening frost.
But my beaded rays have the colours I’ve seen in paintings
Ah life, they have cheated you…”

Ivy Alvarez: ‘What Marilyn Ran From’

Photo by Jock Carroll, 1952
Photo by Jock Carroll, 1952

‘What Marilyn Monroe Ran From’, a poem by Ivy Alvarez, is published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Marilyn mania continues unabated in Australia, with a series of workshops and screenings accompanying 20th Century Fox Presents MM, the acclaimed exhibition of Marilyn’s personal property at Bendigo Art Gallery. That exhibit will continue until July 10.  But if you’re still hoping to catch MAMA Albury’s art and photography exhibit, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, hurry – it closes this Sunday, May 8.

53 Years Ago…

Marilyn by George Barris, July 1962
Marilyn by George Barris, July 1962

The world learned of Marilyn’s death on Sunday, August 5th, 1962.

“Her final Summer was it
And yet we guessed it not;
If tenderer industriousness
Pervaded her, we thought

A further force of life
Developed from within,
When Death lit all the shortness up
It made the hurry plain.

We wondered at our blindness
When nothing was to see,
But her Carrara guide-post
At our stupidity,

When duller than our dullness
The busy darling lay,
So busy was she, finishing,
So leisurely were we!”

– Emily Dickinson

 

Death in Hollywood: Amber Tamblyn on Marilyn

ambertamblyn2Actress Amber Tamblyn – who has appeared in TV shows including Joan of Arcadia, House M.D., and Two and a Half Men, and films such as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Ring – is also an accomplished poet.

Her third collection, Dark Sparkler, focuses on tragic Hollywood actresses. “While Sharon Tate is the most infamous death, Marilyn Monroe is the most famous out of all of the women in there,” Amber told Uproxx.com. “So I thought less is more. In reading her coronary reports, there was something about how her hand was found on her pillow next to her head, and that her hair was wrapped very, very tightly around her index finger, so much so that there was blood circulation cut off in the tip of her finger. When they were formally investigating it, those are things that need to be written down because it could mean, ‘Was she struggling?’ There just could be any kind of detail, as far as was it a homicide or a suicide, or what was it?”

asyoung-poster

Interestingly, Amber’s father, actor Russ Tamblyn – best-known for his roles in West Side Story and Twin Peaks – appeared in one of Marilyn’s early films, As Young As You Feel, in which she was cast as a secretary. Aged seventeen, Tamblyn played Willie McKinley (the son of Marilyn’s boss), and was billed as Rusty.

51 Years Ago: The Poetry of Marilyn

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.'”

 

Vision in White: A Poem by Cecilie

A lovely tribute from Norwegian fan, Cecilie Therese Andersen.

Vision in White

A vision in white haunted by the night
Hollywood and Golden Dreams,
A city where nothing is what it seems.
Was “she” ever real to you,
an immortal goddess on screen or a woman like the rest?
That sweet laughter and smile,
dancing to music and toasting champagne-
or reciting a poem for friends with a soft voice
waiting for the rain.
Reaching out for endless love, can you feel it now?
Did you know your own strength to make it like you did?
A force of nature is never easy to comprehend.
So here`s to you, Marilyn, for inspiring me like nobody else
To be all the things you are to me!

Marilyn: A Lady of Letters

With Norman Rosten, 1955

A letter written by Marilyn to her poet friend, Norman Rosten, while living at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel circa 1955, is on display until December 9 at the Douglas Elliman Gallery on Madison Avenue, alongside notes penned by Joe DiMaggio, Emily Dickinson and others, reports DNAInfo. It will be auctioned by California’s Profiles in History on December 18.

A full transcript is available at Booktryst:

“Dear Norman, 

It feels a little funny to be writing the name Norman since my own name is Norma and it feels like I’m writing my own name almost, However— 

First, thanks for letting Sam [photographer and MM confidant Sam Shaw] and me visit you and Hedda last Saturday. It was nice. I enjoyed meeting your wife – she seemed so warm to me. Thanks the most for your book of poetry—with which I spent all Sunday morning in bed with. It touched me – I use to think if I had ever had a child I would have wanted only a son, but after reading –Songs for Patricia [Simon and Schuster, 1951] – I know I would have loved a little girl just as much but maybe the former feeling was only Freudian for something…anyway Frued [sic]

I use to write poetry sometimes but usually I was very depressed at those times and the few (about two) people said that it depressed them, in fact one cried but it was an old friend I’d known for years. So anyway thanks. And my best to Hedda & Patricia and you— 

Marilyn M.”