Amber Tamblyn was an actress, about 10 years old, when she began to realize her changing body was an object to the adults in charge.
“I was just starting to get into that phase of being a girl-slash-becoming a woman, and I had gone on an audition – for a film I don’t want to mention – with a director who made verbal comments about seeing that I was wearing a training bra, and he could see it through my dress,” she says.
“And I remember going out into the car and curling up in a ball and not wanting to tell my dad [Russ Tamblyn] what had happened, and it felt so awful. And that’s just par for the course. I have many, many stories like that.”
A sense of those stories Tamblyn carries around comes through in “Dark Sparkler,” her third collection of poetry which investigates 25 actresses whose lives in Hollywood turned tragic. She’ll read from it tonight at Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff and tomorrow at Rubber Gloves in Denton with her tourmate, poet and Write Bloody founder Derrick Brown.
Not long after she curled up in a ball in the car, Tamblyn took the role of Emily Quartermaine on “General Hospital” and played her for 11 years. She was visible as an actress into adulthood, most notably as the lead in CBS’ series “Joan of Arcadia,” “The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants” franchise and films like “The Ring.” Sharing the bleaker parts of the legacy she inherited as an actress feels less like a choice and more like survival, she says.
“Being objectified for so long in that way – and just only knowing how to be an object – was a very intense experience for me, and this book was such a cathartic release of a lot of those feelings.”
Many of the vulnerable bodies Tamblyn honors in the volume have been literally lost – girls and women consumed by addiction, suicide or greed-fueled betrayals of people they trusted.
Brittany Murphy, Marilyn Monroe: Tamblyn eulogizes well-known names sensitively – sometimes gruesomely so – in the book. The poem for murdered actress Sharon Tate is written from the point of view of her unborn son.
Tamblyn tries to connect with the final moments of more obscure actresses, too. In one poem, Peg Entwistle stands in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, on a hill Tamblyn imagines as the back of a dead dragon, “one she’d slain lifetimes ago.” The poet draws Entwistle’s “bare feet, naked and crooked / wild and full of sudden language” as she climbs the ‘H’ of the sign and jumps, to be seen.
“Dark Sparkler” is wrenching. And Brown, Tamblyn’s tour partner, brings the grief of a lost relationship to his newest collection “Our Poison Horse.” But, Brown insists there will be humor too. They’ve even named the tour “Lazers of Sexcellence,” after an episode of spontaneous revelry during a tamer reading when Brown said they should “dance with sexual excellence.” Both poets have traded sets with bands like Yo La Tengo, and Brown pushes the idea that poets should tour and promote themselves as relentlessly as musicians do.
“We’re on your side. We’ve been bored, also, at these things. But we’ve also been blitzed-up by the power of poetry. So we want to make it a little more accessible by doing stories and comedy and improv and wildness and dance parties all blended with the poetry,” he says.
As founder of the publisher Write Bloody, Brown sizes up a live a poet’s live delivery when he considers them for his roster.
“I’m most intrigued by that strange breed of animal that can write well on the page and also enjoy themselves reading it out loud. I feel that there’s this sort of curmudgeon feeling among a lot of writers where they feel like it’s crap if you are having fun onstage,” he says. “‘It’s too performative, it’s more of a monologue if you’re doing that.’ And I don’t agree.
“Those are usually the most scared kind of writers, they have some sort of strange insecurity. And I have it too, I just like trying to shove it down.”
Lazers of Sexcellence at Wild Detectives at 7 p.m. in Dallas Thursday and Rubber Gloves at 8pm Friday.