Tuesday, September 27, 2005

do it be that song

When gossip blogs have to pick up slack for the New York Times Book Review, any true literary enthusiast can feel the tides of change lapping at the shore of our notion of artistic merit. Every Sunday sees the same canon of writers (mostly male, mostly white, mostly old) lauded for their latest work. At whose expense comes this tunnel vision? Whose golden-penned words will go unread because one paper monopolizes the totality of current literary discourse? Which genius, even as we speak, is falling through the cracks, her books being boxed once again and sent off for pulping?

Amber Tamblyn, that's who.

Without the watchful eye of Perez Hilton I would never have known that quasi-starlet Ambler Tamblyn had penned not one, but two books of poetry, the most recent of which was just published by Simon and Schuster. How the NYTBR managed to overlook this is unfathomable; I choose to believe it was extreme oversight as opposed to willful omission, as the latter is inconceivable to anyone acquainted with the high literary achievement of many WB network stars.

You may know Amber best as the main character in the (still running?) television series Joan of Arcadia. Wait, cry the naysayers, how does acting in a lousy TV show with mild Christian overtones qualify you to be a poet? To them I say: She also portrayed Emily Quartermain #1 General Hospital as well as a Sister of the Traveling Pants in the recent film of similar title. Amber also played "Young Jill" in something called Live Nude Girls, according to IMDB.

Not that I have to justify anything to anyone, but if that doesn't make for a brilliant poet, I don't know what does. I hold a B.A. in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I know from good poems.

Besides, teen tragicomedies be damned! Amber is about to don her black turtleneck, fine tune on her spoken word voice (translated for slam poets: spo...ken WORD? VOICE...), and take the poetry community by the reins. Get on her flaming chariot now and charge, charge with us into the avant-garde, the earth-shattering, the very cutting edge of modern poetry. Amber Tamblyn is the voice of a revolution.

This, this is the dawning of the Age of Amber Tamblyn.

A quick look at "amtam.com" reveals that her first project, entitled The Loneliest, is a collaboration between Amber and an artist friend. Together they have created a limited edition "book" comprised of collages and haiku inspired by their deep appreciation for Thelonious Monk. Well, that and that one time that Amber tried to buy a painting of Monk from a bum in California and he refused to sell it to her because she was clueless and "too white." For real, it's on her website.

Inspired by "sheer cultural embarrassment," Amber experienced "an internal Monk-related vision that lasted for over two months." She wrote nearly a poem a day (all haiku, so that's, like, a hand-cramping seventeen syllables a day) about the musician, though she doesn't specify whether she ever listened to any of his music. She later paired with her friend to create a book from her writing and his collages, into every copy of which she herself printed this poem:

dear thelonious
make beatz break them start awkward
do it be that song


After I stopped sobbing from the sheer power of her poem, I reapplied my Mary Kate and Ashley mascara (first things first, duh...) and then sought Amber's wise counsel once again. Spaketh from her website: "I still need to go see that man on the beach and trade him this product of my inspiration for that painting. He owes me." How true, and how poetic an ending it would be.

"I suppose," she concludes, "we owe each other."

Now having fully transcended her "white girl from Santa Monica" upbringing and embraced the entirety of the African-American experience, Amber has moved on to pen and publish Free Stallion, now available through Amazon.com. Please don't immediately purchase it (however badly you feel you must) as I suspect the influx of orders may cripple the entire corporation. Instead, please bide your time and mull on this excerpt from "Face Me," available on her website as well:

Face me, so that I may know the man
Who sticks me with goodnight kisses
like a shadowless blade.

Like all the silences
in which we were made.

Baby, my mouth is an exam
you cannot afford to fail.

Take me.


I dare anyone to read those words, look me in the eye, and swear that something didn't move deep inside them. When I hit those last two words, something begins to churn in my gut and I defy anyone to claim they were not similarly affected.

Buffygirl115 agrees that Ambler Tamblyn is the greatest living poet. Her amazon.com review states that, though she is only fifteen, she believes "every girl between the age of 12 and 18 should be forced to read [the poem Pipe Dreams]." She also says that though it is marketed toward teen readers, "the sheer brilliance of this novel [sic] will be appreciated by readers of all ages." I, for one, completely agree.

Amber Tamblyn has a gift I cannot fully express. In the words of Buffygirl115: "This line, my favorite line, is water stained from tears..." I don't actually own a copy of Free Stallion, but I am, myself, weeping directly on to the screen of my computer and ruining my keyboard and receiving small electrical shocks in my fingers and in my very eyes but O! it is cross I gladly bear to read a small-screen actress's book of poems.

Not only have Amber's actual words fortified my spirit, the very act of her choosing to publish poetry has given me hope for my future. Should I ever decide I am unhappy with my career path, I now know that it is possible just to throw any words in any order on a couple of lines, leave some white space, insert a "baby" or two, use "fucking" once because goddammit this is a poem and you're a goddamn adult, and sell it to Simon and Schuster for what was undoubtedly a six figure advance plus royalties.

Because that's what poetry IS, man, it just IS. It just HAPPENS. You like, have a dream about Thelonious Monk and then, like, you fuck up how you spell "beats" because it's, like, a poem and you're not going to be bound by any fascist grammar and then when your sit-com is on hiatus you do a totally fucking artsy black and white cover shoot and you're a poet, you're so totally a poet.

I'm glad it's so simple, because I'm looking for a quick way to recoup the $100,000 in debt I accrued to procure my poetry degree.

And, just in case I do ever publish a book, I've decided to include this poem that I've written for my idol, Amber:

let's go amblin', tamblyn.
ramblin' through the jazz streets
like a pair
of delicious plums
that i stole from the fridge
they were so cold

but i'm no pied piper of hamlin, tamblyn
so i
won't lead this poem astray
i should say something about
angels
right now
because i think i'm legally required
it is a poem
after
all

oh yeah,
"fuck."

(joan of arcadia
is a fantastic
show.)

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