21 April 2015

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Summary from Goodreads:
The lives of more than twenty-five actresses lost before their time—from Marilyn Monroe to Brittany Murphy—explored in haunting, provocative new work by an acclaimed poet and actress

Amber Tamblyn is both an award-winning film and television actress and an acclaimed poet. As such she is deeply fascinated-and intimately familiar—with the toll exacted from young women whose lives are offered in sacrifice as starlets. The stories of these actresses, both famous and obscure-tragic stories of suicide, murder, obscurity, and other forms of death—inspired this empathic and emotionally charged collection of new poetic work.

Featuring subjects from Marilyn Monroe and Frances Farmer to Dana Plato and Brittany Murphy—and paired with original artwork commissioned for the book by luminaries including David Lynch, Adrian Tome, Marilyn Manson, and Marcel Dzama—Dark Sparkler is a surprising and provocative collection from a young artist of wide-ranging talent, culminating in an extended, confessional epilogue of astonishing candor and poetic command.

Actresses featured in Dark Sparkler include:

Marilyn Monroe
Brittany Murphy
Dana Plato
Jayne Mansfield
Jean Harlow
Dominique Dunne
Sharon Tate
Heather O’Rourke
Bridgette Andersen
Shannon Michelle Wilsey
Judith Barsi
Peg Entwistle
Carole Landis
Anissa Jones
Susan Peters
Barbara La Marr
Lucy Gordon
Sirkka Sari
Li Tobler
Thelma Todd
Samantha Smith
Lupe Valez
Taruni Sachdev
Rebecca Shaeffer

My working knowledge of contemporary poetry is not good. So color me surprised to find out that not only does actress Amber Tamblyn have a book of poetry coming out from HarperPerennial it isn't her first collection.  Huh.  But I was really intrigued by her subject matter for the new collection, Dark Sparkler: the lives and deaths of women in the entertainment history.

I won't lie, there are no happy poems here.  This is a sad and intriguing collection of poems distilled from the tragic lives of actresses, some quite obscure (I had trouble finding them with Google - and there is an 8 page list of search terms consisting of actress' names and deaths, many of whom died young and holy dude will that take a bit to go through and reconcile with those poems based on actresses I couldn't find initially).  There is no consistent form or style; it is pure feeling.

Included in and around these poems based on real women are anxieties that Tamblyn herself must share with these women - the pressure to perform, to conform, to be on display, to be perfect, and to be the object of obsession. The collection reminds me that actresses are judged far more for their appearance and behavior than their acting ability and that pressure causes so many women to harm themselves or turn to substance abuse. One particular poem is chilling in that it is blank, wordless, as if it is waiting for its subject's final move before filling in (I won't spoil that one by telling you who it is).  There are lessons here and a lot of things to think about.

Dear FTC: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

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