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Introducing one's self is a difficult task. Talking about yourself in the narrative does not give a clear view of who you are; that is why I asked my dear friend Jack to write a more biographic opening. But what I found from the experience of putting this book together was an overwhelming sense of self-understanding, a sort of third-person love for whoever has been growing inside of me for years. I am blessed to be surrounded with the kind of love that does not cater to the spectacle of a career based on an image, as the entertainment business makes me feel at times. It's the kind of love that pursues and pushes the constant fine-tuning of an artist who funnels the truth through one woman's eyes. And my eyes have seen the best and worst of both worlds. This is what I hope to share with you through this collection of poems, Free Stallion.
I began writing poetry at a very early age, maybe about eight or nine years old. I wrote essays and short stories with my father, who heartily encouraged my budding imagination. Growing up, my parents surrounded me with the many creative influences they were fortunate to have, from artists like George Herms, Wallace Berman, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Conner, Ed Ruscha, Dennis Hopper, David Lynch, Neil Young, and many more. I watched and learned and, like a sponge, I absorbed everything around me. My father taught me that "the meaning of life is the search for the meaning of life," an expression that I live by when trying to write down something I cannot explain. The search is always the most important thing. He and my mother opened me up to philosophers, writers, and poets such as J. Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Diane Di Prima, Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Wanda Coleman, and Nietzsche.
Within the world of poetry, there was one person who stood as a rebel warrior for the sonnet of my conscience. Jack Hirschman, a man I emulated style-wise as a little girl, was the father figure and master in encouraging and training my existential concepts and views on womanhood, Hollywood, the death of a high school love, politics, and just about everything that has come my way to date. Jack was initially a professor of English at UCLA and has spent the rest of his life translating the telling work of poets all over the world. He translates in nine languages. Jack is a proletarian and an activist for the working class, and has a raw intuition on matters of the heart. He's a bear of a man, gentle, vibrant, and full of youthful energy, and he has a passionate love of life. Those who are fortunate enough to come into contact with him or hear him read poetry can be changed for life. Though he translates others, his best translation to date is one of human emotion into words of any kind -- that is a spectacular gift.
My style has gone through many stages, and I am sure it will continue to do so. A few of the pieces are dream sequences. For example, the poem "Train" was inspired by a repeating dream about an experience with a man I hated to love. I had been in a relationship with someone who had not been fair to me. I hated loving him because, in love, you have no control. Inside the dream his physical form changed from a man to a horse, and I stood by and watched him get hit by a train, while at the same time I told him to cross the tracks. This dream was a very violent and vivid experience, and would cause me to wake up in a sweat. I still believe to this day that this was both a fantasy and a nightmare, which is why, when the dream repeated, the pleasure of beckoning him never went away.
Because this book is a teenage timeline of sorts, you will find some work I wrote when I was as young as twelve years old. The poem I decided to put first in this book, "Kill Me So Much," was written at that very tender age. It was an homage to Jack and his political voice. I wanted a voice like his, and I still get a kick out of reading that poem. I believe I wrote it after witnessing racism for the first time during the Rodney King riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1992. Also, the poem "Banana" is an example of my writing style's first blossoming. This poem was written when I was fourteen years old, and it has a lot of personal significance as far as where I was physically and emotionally during the time when I wrote it. It is a good piece that shows the beginning of what I feel would be my growth spurt as a writer.
"Pax Vobiscum," which means "peace be with you," is a poem I wrote for Woody Guthrie, a man who stood for the use of music and politics to fight governmental injustice and fascism in early-twentieth-century America; a man who used music for its true worth. I was possessed to write this poem after years of listening to stale, washed-out, pop culture music that I was subjected to throughout my teens. Tired of my generation's affected lack of constructive intent, I wanted to reach back to a time when there were people who found things in life that were worth fighting for. Except for a few artists who are relatively unknown, I have yet to find anyone in the mainstream whose music reflects his or her daily way of living. I have yet to see a music television artist that does not cannibalize a real activist's image in order to generate character interest before their album is released. It seems like everything is a marketing scam these days. As Johnny Rotten once said, "The best you can be in a positively backwards world is absolutely negative." Well, for some, "punk is dead but the expression lives on and so does the hope for a modern-day Guthrie.
The haikus at the end are a shortened version of a book I did last year with artist George Herms, entitled The Loneliest, a series of poems and artwork dedicated to jazz legend Thelonious Monk. I was on the boardwalk at Venice Beach a while back and I saw a street artist painting a beautiful picture of a black man at a piano. When I asked how much he was selling it for, he snickered and asked if I even knew who the painted figure was. He would not sell this painting to a white girl from Santa Monica. I became obsessed with Monk, listening to Straight, No Chaser, watching the documentary of the same name, and learning everything I could about this musician out of sheer cultural embarrassment. I then had an internal Monk-related vision that lasted for more than two months, and I wrote a short poem or haiku about Thelonious almost every day. Later I spoke with George Herms about my obsession, only to find that he, too, was an avid Monk fan. Right then and there we spoke of the beginnings of what would end up being a poetry book/art collaboration. 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. I suppose we owe each other.
These poems are moments. They make up a grander story than what I can explain here, in a good ol' intro section. So onward. Get cozy, and then let's get nosy. Enjoy.
--- Amber Tamblyn
Copyright © 2005 by Amber Tamblyn
The war has started,
the blood flags are raised high for us to see.
Die! Die! we all cry
with our stubborn cannons blowing off,
and our noses like dead poodles,
arriving on a nightmare,
praying for a dream.
Laughing at all those guts and bones on dream paper,
money that the Government is grieving over.
WE STILL WANT MORE RESPECT!
For the black, the rabbi, and the painters and the preachers.
WE STILL WANT MORE RESPECT!
All those computers
and digital phones,
all paid by rich men with their cannons blowing off,
and rich women with their noses like dead poodles.
WE STILL WANT MORE RESPECT!
And not just some buzzing bulb and a fly to keep it
I'm in bed with the lights on,
the guise in plaid knee-highs
undercover in your underwear.
I'm writing the whole half of a lie
in story reform.
It's a freedom country if you dare
to know a girl in her heartland.
It's the agony of you chewing gum,
the way you say nothing but move your tongue...
Be still my heart
you were a captured wild
Indian paintbrush has nothing on paintings like you,
All that heaved my chest lay there in your stems.
You had that push-up bra like a shield.
Who were you under there
engulfing my eyes?
It's brown against green,
this whole seasonal sexual thing's weighing down
my nipples' generosity.
They see you.
They both do
you taught me to climb trees
to let the Fall
No framed photo holding amber love,
no rack to mount the swan.
Swan dies in the big picture,
big picture sees very little,
small AND few.
(Forget the song, Amber)
No meaning means no-thing,
everything has meaning but this, Amber,
(answer the bastard, Amber).
Enter the house made of bedposts
of frames you've slept upon
where hearts have bled through
staining a wood-stained floor
Eat the meat, make it right, Amber,
make the apology neutral
in between the lines,
in between your legs,
the lines on your legs stretch
marks already, at such a young age?
Insane already, the beer empty,
the life half there, Amber,
fill the rest.
Fill the rest,
crack the nut in you, Amber, crack her hard,
glue in the extra eyelashes,
admit to label prostitution,
Eat the meat, make it right.
In the coliseum slant
bodies, dressed for rich fog,
emeralds and rubies
(wear the meat, Amber),
as the seats puke forward, tumble down,
gowns and genitals, oh my gracious,
the glorious rust-belt of fame decapitated,
rusty pig urine running fearful from their torn holes
(smell the pigs, Amber),
death on the stage
as the coliseum eats itself from the outside in:
Copyright © 2005 by Ambert Tamblyn