Amber Tamblyn, the Poet?

Image not from actual event (Washington Post).

You’re probably not surprised by the idea that Hollywood breeds psychological dissonance – that its hills are where narcissists migrate and a myriad of disorder is birthed on macrocosmic screens.

Perhaps you think, Amber Tamblyn? The girl in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Has she been in any movies lately? (As Amber herself states in so many words) isn’t she the unsuccessful Emma Stone?

Amber Tamblyn is right under my nose before I even realize it’s her – just strolled nonchalantly through the exquisite courtyard of the Poetry Foundation in downtown Chicago. Then she’s slipping through the hefty glass doors of the building. The other half dozen people waiting with me outside don’t seem to notice. She’s a phantom in this way, a darling specter; which is coincidentally how she chooses to think of her former self, just a ghost.

I’m not aware as the event commences that she’s sitting two rows in front of me, waiting to be introduced. She floats onto the stage, opens her book. Yes, Amber Tamblyn wrote a book. No, it’s not just like Snookie’s. This is an actual book. This is a collection of poetry, an anthem to the artistic process.

Dark Sparkler is a chapbook of sorts. It includes accompanying art work and spans a vivid spectrum: comedic to explicitly dark.

She begins to read, voice projected both actor and bard, woman and rebel. Brittany Murphy’s eyes bigger than Audrey Hepburn, a grotesque faux pas of plastic surgery, Dano Plato’s deeply disturbing puppet strings, a slew of Tamblyn epithets triumphantly emerge from the poet’s mouth.

She reads lastly her life researching her dead peers, the morbid and humanizing details of her poetic process.

The event closes with an on stage exchange between Hannah Gamble and Amber Tamblyn. Both women beam like neon signs of sisterhood. It’s beautiful, their briefly formed bond. It’s beautiful, the inner person of Tamblyn, both on the page and in glorious flesh.

Hannah asks how Amber feels about the suggestion to change her name by another poet. Perhaps the world would then take her work seriously. Amber is gleeful about the drink she threw in this poet’s face.

Amber’s been pretending to be someone else most of her life. It’s time to face her audience as her true self.

She notes that her poems are not a bid for sympathy. We should not look at them and think, oh, feel bad for the privileged. Instead we should come away from her work with a new human understanding of the tragic consequences of this privilege.

Hannah asks, did it feel like a year long séance with these ladies?

“The haunting was mutual,” Amber replies.

Amber illuminates us on the process of the first poem she wrote for the collection. It’s the one about Brittany Murphy’s death – her aching connection to her contemporary. It was a “bizarre humanizing of these women,” she says – the women she visited in their darkest moments. Amber understands she’s glamorizing their deaths too. But, the juxtaposition of her “funeral of sorts,” the poem of epithets, adds Amber Tamblyn to this glorified list. It parodies the lives (and deaths) of these women and adds an interesting dimension to this collection. Nick Tyler told her instead, “it’s not a funeral, it’s a wake.” It’s a celebration of who she was and what she’s become and who she will be.

“I will have no control over what will happen when I’m gone,” she says.

And thus we are left contemplating our artistic presence, our subjective value to a treacherous community of leading men.

And Amber’s voice resounds in my ears: push your art agenda onto the world no matter the cost.


Poetry Foundation, Chicago, IL

Poetry off the Shelf: Amber Tamblyn with Hannah Gamble

March 18th, 2016: Chicago

Published by

Alexandra Stanislaw

Alexandra Stanislaw is the Editor-In-Chief and founder of Devise Literary. She is also an Assistant Editor for Hotel Amerika. Her work appears in Crab Fat Magazine ("The Good Friend" and "Tampa Raised You Up"), Ragazine, and Chicago Review of Books.

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