Yes, that Amber Tamblyn, the actress whose career includes roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Grudge 2, plus the lead in the TV show Joan of Arcadia. I discovered this (little-known?) fact because she's currently blogging at the Poetry Foundation.
My first thoughts, of course, were like, "Huh?" and then "Ew." But her first post is actually kind of good (also, we share a fondness for Noelle Kocot). But it's not really my style; I don't like the preemptive tactic of avoiding critique by exposing all your weaknesses upfront ("You're a Hollywood actress who can't spell," she writes in the faux second person, "None of the writers at the Poetry Foundation will take your writing seriously. Seriously. Stay in your safe zone where your publicist can help control your image."). The need to lower people's expectations is a sign of insecurity; I do it when I'm playing pool because my game is highly variable, but not when I'm playing ping pong, because my ping pong skills are tight. All this jive, well-written though it may be, tells me that she's not just worried about how she'll be received by the PoFo crowd; she's worried that she's actually not that great a poet.
Are her concerns founded? Well let's take a look shall we??? First I consulted Wikipedia. Simon & Schuster (the Children's Publishing division, ahem) published her first book of poetry, Free Stallion, in 2005. The title certainly sounds like a children's book (Elevator pitch: A cross between Black Beauty and Free Willy for the tender young animal activist). But is it poetry for children?
Semi-inconclusive. Amazon classifies the book as "Young Adult." But maybe she's just been pigeonholed because her acting roles are very YA? The School Library Review says "Free Stallion is a compilation [sic] of poetry that amounts to a portrait of the artist as a teenager.... Many of the selections are appropriately self-absorbed but move beyond journalistic catharsis to real insight and stunning language for one so young." Well, um, she's 26 ... not exactly a teenager. I really hate when young women are marketed as precocious little ingenues. When a 26-year-old man writes a book people don't treat him like the boy detective. (OK, so she was younger when the book came out, but I know a 29-year-old whose publisher just tried to give her the same treatment.)
Back to the poetry, and whether it's any good. (Of course the simple fact that she got a book published doesn't mean anything since everyone knows that's easy when you're already famous (see Billy Corgan*).) You can read a selection of poems from her book on a website called Rebel Asylum (red flag). I think I'll just annotate one of her poems. (Amber, consider this a review. I don't like the poem very much, but part of being taken seriously is getting negative reviews. And if some dipshit reviewer on Amazon made you cry, you need to toughen up a bit. Poets are mean.)
Moths © Amber Tamblyn from the book Free Stallion
I consider myself flexible in awkward positions. [a promising first line]
Not a home wrecker,
but I do knock.
And you and I are pals.
The kind that
open up to each other but keep mouths
at a safe distance. [meh, but withholding judgment]
But I cannot amend all tongues. [taking a turn for the worse]
I walk the dubious centerfold of your eye-line, friend. [kind of interesting, though reiterating that you're "just friends" (with benefits?) is unnecessary]
I carry my purse on the same side you walk next to me
to avoid hand. [speaking of awkward]
To avoid saying anything small.
We are the shredded fuse,
the rebound wires commencing,
badly rerouted and iniquitous. [not convinced Tamblyn is adept with vocab]
We are the failed test of the emergency buddy system. [UGH]
Chums. [WE GET IT]
I am a derelict without furniture or life signs,
painting your posture from distance that
can fit inside the palm of your land. [really, no]
Though we share ice cream instead of pipedreams,
you'd never be lover to another poet
because you are one. [totally unnecessary line]
And the fear of being served a reflection
in the way that you have served some,
is a glass house you are not ready to escape from.
I'll keep liking mint, while you go for chocolate.
I can't seem to get away from. [from/drums/from. um...]
You are just another sheep
jumping the fence in my nightmares. [truly, Tamblyn, you're no "linguisticon"/"metaphor aficionado"]
Counting out numerical complacency,
a platonic answer with a nod-off.
Like a million hairs you've grown near your mouth
plowed down, rough and sore
my beard too wants to be a little fucked and worn, but [whoa, what? that's not very YA]
the time is not now, if not never. [I like this line; could see myself writing it]
Not before, during or after
her, your lover, another, or the next chapter. [just took it too far though]
So lets just say
lets just stay
friends, forever. [way, way too far]
There is no title for our book cover-up,
so I will keep reading like a brood kept laboring. [huh?]
Take a long walk off my short feet,
my stomach pleads hunger no matter
how much I eat
and its open mouth aches.
Where there should be butterflies there are moths. [This could be a good idea/image if it weren't coming after all the muddied ones before it. Like most famous people, Tamblyn needs an editor]
Eating through my loins like loincloth. [huh?]
If there's a map to things spoken, friend
we'll see we are way off.
Buddies. [FINE, have it your way, Tamblyn. You know where I stand.]
You're the worst kind because
you wont even reject me physically,
we can't even celebrate celibacy. [So you ARE friends with benefits!!]
I am your dirty washboard
and yet have never had you inside me.
There's no declaration in our country.
Pals. [ ... ]
You tug the one red string
that seems to run through everything.
I seek your flying patterns from behind,
the blue leading the blind.
Friends. No beneficiary.
So we stay.
Like I said, I'm not impressed. On the other hand, it's her first book, so she might have written the poem a long time ago. She might be a much better writer now, especially if she's reading poets like Kocot. (Though Kocot is kind of a visionary and not easy to imitate successfully.) "It'll be interesting to see" if Tamblyn turns out to be worthy of the PoFo (not that I think the PoFo is so great). But not that interesting.
*Kathy Rooney wrote a great essay on rockstar poets a few years back but the link is broken. Did Contemporary Poetry Review fold?