Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

128 pages, to be published on April 7, 2015 by HarperPerennial

Amber Tamblyn's third volume of poetry, Dark Sparkler, examines the lives of actresses who died before their time (sometimes long before their time). Tamblyn covers a wide range of actresses - from Sharon Tate to Marilyn Monroe, from Brittany Murphy to Peg Entwistle - and includes an epilogue of more personal poems about the "business." Interspersed with her poems are original pieces of artwork by the likes of Adrian Tomine, David Lynch, and Marilyn Manson.

I'm definitely a fan of poetry, but I had never read anything by Tamblyn before and I had no idea what to expect - would this be the work of a spoiled Hollywood actress trying to forge a bond with these former starlets? Simple, rhyming lines? Just plain bad? Luckily, my worries were completely unfounded. Dark Sparkler completely blew me away. Tamblyn has an immensely strong grasp of metaphor and uses it to her advantage. Her prose never stumbles and she never pulls punches in this complex and haunting collection. Each poem is a portrait of a woman's life - sometimes the portraits are expansive, sometimes they're simply a snapshot, but they are all breathtaking. This book is absolutely wonderful with artwork that perfectly matches the tone.

In the foreword to this volume, Diane di Prima suggests that readers first take in Dark Sparkler how they normally would: read it straight through, pick out poems here and there, whatever works. Then, she instructs us to follow our curiosities...look up the women whose stories we're unfamiliar with (or the ones we already know)! Read their biographies, look at their photos, find interviews, do anything that strikes our fancy. I took di Prima's advice, but only partially. I couldn't stand the thought of waiting to finish the book before I found out more about Taruni Sachdev or Rebecca Schaeffer or Bridgette Andersen. I wanted to know them the way Tamblyn seemed to in her verse. I wanted to understand these words and stories. Once I read about one of these actresses lives, then I'd reread the poem and see what new dimensions the backstory brought to the work. Of course, the poems in Dark Sparkler can stand on their own, but we don't necessarily have to leave them on their own. 

"Sharon Tate," "Peg Entwistle," "Jean Harlow," "Bridgette Andersen," "Samantha Smith"

Rating: 4.5/5

**I received a free e-galley of Dark Sparkler from Edelweiss.

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