Poem of the Week 5/9/2017
On the night of November 15, 1971, a fashion show at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Museum included a segment filmed for the first reality television show, An American Family. Ironically, an icon and one of the founders of reality on film happened to be there, on the last night of her life.
There were cameras at the evening do:
A new type of thing, following people around
Hoping they will rise above the fondue.
There in the corner is an old young woman,
Heiress, socialite, muse, hanging around,
Forgotten dreamgirl now loved by the hour:
Edith Minturn Sedgwick, scion to everything
Bad in the American character from the Mayflower
To the droolings the idle rich plan.
It is the start of something new:
Reality television and the terror of the mundane.
Dame Edith was rarely mundane. This stew
Should have been hers, more than the girls
With the bubble asses or the society girls
Who kept the cameras rolling during sex:
Dame Edith for all her daring was proper, prim,
Mysterious, needy, wondering what’s next.
She’d tried her best to escape an American family
And did it as well as any fuckup could.
We fuckups must admire her disdain.
It was her last night on earth, though:
Behind the Music ending grim.
Time to drape a rose on her final flow
Via drugs and booze and questionable sanity.
I dare to think I wouldn’t have given her
The downs that ended up killing her,
Would have prodded her to one last
Ride on the chrome horse, one last
Chance to dazzle with her vanity.
She chatted briefly with Lance Loud,
Passing the torch on her last night on earth.
Pity selfies hadn’t been invented yet.
All men loved Edie, loved her from birth.
She was lively, pretty, sexy, proud,
With fat raccoon eyes that stab me yet,
A skinny Marilyn. Men tried to capture her
In her leopardskin pillbox hat, in her
Glittering image on a film, in her seedy moonturn
As a goddess in the Chelsea Hotel. I am sorry
It was always capture and release, and release.
Still her life was a triumph not ceasing to cease
Of catch me if you can while I carry
My loony lamp brightly, brightest, watch it burn.
Edie had a talent for ten-second happiness
The rest of us mad ones aspire to, a feel
For the brief caesuras there to be had,
The gift of gab to document it whole.
The abyss is there all the time, might as well
Skip over it this time, hey look, there’s the empress.
Yes, she was a waif, yes, her time was gamine.
But Edie made twenty unscripted films
In her seven years in charge of Pharaoh’s grain.
She was the queen of reality and its whims,
The American Family for good and bad,
Brilliantly free of it for her time of freefall,
Never a nebbish naked on some isle,
Trotting through the director’s taunts,
Her own creation, and you can hold the light:
Do you hear that siren, it’s mine,
You haunts have me on loan from the gods,
So take a good look while it shines.
The poets are writing about me tonight,
My glory’s like the moon, pale and bright.
America fucked me over, but I won’t feel it
If you give me a spike, oh honey boo boo,
There will be time for sadness in a bit
If that’s what it comes to, but for now
You’ll light my cigarette and wish you knew
My throaty laugh, and how I can plan to debut
The next thing to know about the night.
Songs inspired by Edie Sedgwick:
Femme Fatale (Lou Reed)
Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan)
Leopardskin Pillbox Hat (Bob Dylan)
Please Crawl Out Your Window (Bob Dylan)
Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
It’s a riff poem, a manic run where my voice turns into hers. many of the rhymes I changed later on, figuring that you get the cliche words first so the rhyme words are better. and sometimes that gives you a line. I wanted to rhyme “gamine” and Edie’s film career spanned 7 years so I made her in charge of Pharaoh’s grain to get grain and gamine for a half rhyme. Plus there are royalty words in there, queen and empress and so on, so why not throw in pharaoh as well lol? in the same vein I used the word “caesura” to refer to Caesar as well as the idea of this fruitful dividing of 7 years she had from the misery of the start and end of her life.
If you are interested in Edie there’s a bio called “Edie: American Girl,” and a film called “Factory Girl” that comes on the cable channels.
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