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poetry corner

Marilyn Monroe: Poet

Vanity Fair has excerpts from a new trove of documents written by Marilyn Monroe that will be published later this fall as Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters. The writings, which focus largely on Monroe’s relationship with her acting teacher Lee Strasberg, her husband Arthur Miller, and her three psychiatrists, are necessarily interesting (and often tortured), but, despite VF’s hagiographic framing, not necessarily doing much to burnish Monroe’s legend. Yes, there’s a real frisson in imagining Monroe writing about "alonement," but it’s not quite enough to cover for the badness of bad poetry, even the kind written in clear emotional distress at the behest of a psychoanalyst. After all, poetry is hard! Just ask Jewel.

Here are some of Monroe's poems, which are riveting on a historical and empathic level, but not so much on an aesthetic one — even though, admittedly, they could be so much worse. (Universal reminder: Burn poems composed in high school later this afternoon.) The first is about her great-aunt Ida, who, as you'll see, was not very nice:

Ida — I have still

been obeying her —

it’s not only harmful

for me to do so

but unrealality because

life starts from Now ….

working (doing my tasks that I

have set for myself)

On the stage — I will

not be punished for it

or be whipped

or be threatened

or not be loved

or sent to hell to burn with bad people

feeling that I am also bad.

or be afraid of my [genitals] being

or ashamed

exposed known and seen —

so what

or ashamed of my

sensitive feelings —


One about Arthur Miller:

my love sleeps besides me —

in the faint light — I see his manly jaw

give way — and the mouth of his

boyhood returns

with a softness softer

its sensitiveness trembling

in stillness

his eyes must have look out

wonderously from the cave of the little

boy — when the things he did not understand —

he forgot


And this one, titled "After one year of analysis."

And

Help help

Help

I feel life coming closer

when all I want

Is to die.

Scream —

You began and ended in air

but where was the middle?


There's lots more, including prose, here.

Marilyn and her Monsters [VF]

Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images