(CNN)- Years ago, I was browsing in New York’s Union Square Barnes & Noble when I came across James Franco’s collection of poetry, “Directing Herbert White.” I was a struggling English PhD student at the time, and was so irritated by Franco’s program-hopping that I moved the books to the True Crime section. Because it was a crime that he wrote them. pick him up?
Of course, this stupid protest did nothing except create work for the Barnes and Noble employee who had to lay them off again (I’m sorry). To this day I still have contempt for Franco, but not because of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him, because he wrote poetry (Franco says all sexual relations were consensual). But I’m thinking differently about the phenomenon of celebrity poetry collections — and it has to do with actress Megan Fox’s recent debut collection, “Pretty Boys Are Poisonous” (Simon & Schuster).
Celebrity poetry is a strange beast. There’s really no point in writing a review or providing a value judgment. Unless you’re confused about the economics of publishing, it’s hard to be angry at their existence.
These books still exist. Fans will be happy. Skeptics will go crazy, like this commentator who was distressed that someone like Fox could get a book deal with a Big Five publisher: “Poetry is dead… There’s no reason to put this bimbo over real poets. Should be published by people who actually care about the craft. Simon & Schuster has lost all credibility…”
Fox, who has starred in “Transformers,” “Jennifer’s Body” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” is, of course, not the first celebrity to write a poetry collection. Jewel, Tupac Shakur, Billy Corgan, Alicia Keys, Mary Lambert, Florence Welch, Halsey, and Lana Del Rey, among others, have all written and published poems with varying degrees of commercial success.
At a cursory glance, it seems that musicians are more interested in poetry than actors – most likely because writing songs is akin to writing poetry. When a celebrity wants to tell their story or clarify a matter, they usually turn to memoirs or autobiographies. Poetry, on the other hand, obscures. It gives the illusion of intimacy in a way that no other medium does.
Many celebrities build their brands on the illusion of relativity. Fox was always surprisingly untrustworthy – too handsome, too enigmatic. She would make films and then disappear. Say something controversial and then disappear. Drop tiny mysterious pieces that lead to a gorgeous, vaguely dangerous, but ultimately enigmatic cottage in the woods.
In an article for NBC, Jude Allison Sadie Doyle described how Fox’s “inappropriateness” meant she was left behind when the #MeToo movement was beginning to grapple with abuse in Hollywood. “It might have been easier to respect Fox’s stories if she presented herself as a devastated victim. But she told her stories the same way she told everyone else’s: with confidence, in the form of jokes, Doyle writes. The same is true about his poetry also.
His poems are about oppression, but also hint at what happens when a mannequin defies expectations and goes crazy. In a poem titled “Like every woman/They refuse to listen to what I say/Instead/They criticize the shape of my mouth/As I speak to them,” she reads, “I’ve seen your bulls-eye beauty. Have not signed up to compete in the competition.”
In the book’s introduction, Fox says the book is about creating a personal, single collective: “And on my part there were previously unspoken feelings of isolation, suffering, self-harm, despair, longing, restlessness, anger and general suffering. These poems representing , These are the experiences of many of us that I now give voice to in these poems.
Fox reflected on her poetic influences in an interview with People: “(Poetry) comes from many places. “Part of it is literal, while other parts are metaphorical.” Whether or not she is aware of the confessional tradition in which she is writing, she can thank other women for paving the way.
Confessional poetry remains a matter of debate in academic circles. It refers specifically to a small group of American poets active between the 1950s and 1970s. It is used more broadly to classify any poetry that appears overly personal – the first person “I” is used and the subjects are mental illness, abuse, physical pain, trauma, addiction, relationships. Addresses the problems, parenting, and horrors of everyday life. Sadness. Confessional poetry is a genre that is not limited to women but often seems to be associated with them. In particular, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton are often mentioned when confessional poetry is discussed.
Both Sexton and Plath used their experiences as women to promote their poetry. He transformed the contents of his life into art that criticized the culture that tried to limit him. For example, in Plath’s poem “The Applicant” (1962) she writes of how the cult of domesticity turns women into literal dolls: “It can sew, it can cook, / It can talk. Yes, she can talk, she can talk.” In poetry, woman is no longer a human being, she has become an object without inner life. “It” is a collection of performances: household chores and small, mindless talk.
Because confessional poetry highlighted femininity and womanhood, and in some cases, pregnancy and motherhood – and ultimately became associated with Second Wave feminism in the 1970s – some critics ridiculed it or dismissed it as something to be ashamed of. . Depending on who you ask, it still is.
Poetry and its reception have come a long way since Plath and Sexton were writing. Now, there are Instagram poets and people who debate whether Instagram poets are good or bad. There are sad girls and platitude girls and poetry tote bags and tattoos. At a promotional reading in New York City, the majority female audience wanted to ask Fox things like what she would tell her younger self. There were tears.
But when women write about taboo subjects, there is still a lot of misogyny to be faced, like how patriarchal structures continue to erase or minimize women’s pain and suffering. The violence of abuse and the pain of abortion are two of Fox’s most serious subjects; In these poems, male figures inflict physical, emotional, and sexual trauma on a speaker who dreams of freedom and is trying to discover his power: “You sleep on top of me so I can’t call my family or “Police” is one of the strongest lines from the poem “Oxycodone and Tequila”, frightening in its simplicity.
There are references to patriarchal violence everywhere: the Biblical torture of Lilith and Eve, the suffering of Mary Magdalene, the grief of the children’s book “The Giving Tree”, the toxic masculinity satire “American Psycho”, Marilyn Monroe (and more needs to be said) and The mythological Persephone, who became queen of the underworld after being kidnapped from her mother by Hades.
Formally, most words are written in lowercase letters like a whisper. And many of the poems appear to be explicitly intended for memory-making. Shortest, often single sentences, seem appropriate for Instagram posts. And while sharing poetry on social media or being an Instagram poet is nothing new, to encourage poetry consumption on social media, it is worthwhile to intentionally participate in this tradition. Fox explained in an interview, “Some poems…serve a similar purpose to memes in online culture.”
Fox’s poetry matters because women and their stories matter. No matter how many times we are told that we need to listen to women, the prevailing message is always that women should remain silent. Just last month, rapper Timbaland said that Justin Timberlake needed to “put a muzzle” on Britney Spears in light of the recent publication of her memoir (Timbaland has since apologized for the comment).
Where Fox would have been an inspiration for other artists, she has now become a creator and inspiration for her own art. Her body, the famous subject of the male gaze, becomes a poetic body that is the site of multiple traumas, struggling to speak and make sense.
A recent critic described the authority expressed by the confessional poets thus: “What makes them powerful is that they bring to the fore the experiences of a determined female speaker, with everyday observations that many women share. But they are often not considered valuable or worthy of being called art.” Fox is working within the same tradition. These are feminist poems, and contain Fox’s message: Reject silence.
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