Actress and Author Amber Tamblyn on Brittany Murphy, Love, and Her Favorite Poem
Photo by Kate Jacobs
Amber Tamblyn is, in many ways, a mystery. An actress, a director, a poet, a performance artist (she recently embarked on a motorcycle poetry tour across Texas with fellow poet Derrick Brown, dubbed Lazers of Sexcellence 5.0) — Tamblyn has been working since the tender age of 13. From turns in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to House, her roles have been eclectic and interesting, reflecting an actress with a lot bubbling beneath the surface.
In the world of Hollywood, she has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and an Independent Spirit Award, and she's equally accomplished across the literary landscape. Dark Sparkler is her third published poetry collection, and as the title implies, the book's subject matter is dark. It features poems about more than 25 actresses who died too young, from Marilyn Monroe to Brittany Murphy. Dark Sparkler is Tamblyn's deeply personal take on a topic she understands better than most.
New Times connected with Tamblyn via email ahead of her appearance at the Miami Book Fair this weekend. We talked about her love of poetry, the Dark Sparkler drink, and Miami's favorite pastime: hedonism.
New Times: What drew you to poetry as an art form?
Amber Tamblyn: I don't think I was ever drawn to poetry as much as I felt like it was something I was born with, a longing that I had always had deep in my bones. It wasn't until I grew older in my teens that I realized it was something I could really do.
Which of the actresses you included in your book did you feel most akin to?
The obvious answer is Brittany Murphy, and that's just because we were the same age — she was a contemporary of mine. We went on all the same auditions. I would see her out at parties. So when she died, I felt what other people feel when a celebrity or an actor or an artist dies; I felt like I knew her in a way, and there was a sense of loss. That was the first time I had ever felt that, a sort of meta emotional experience.
I heard there's a bar that's making a Dark Sparkler drink. What's in it?
Ha! Yes, in fact there's a wonderful chef named Andrea Reusing out of North Carolina who approached me about making the drink because she loved the name so much. I was honored and plan to drink one soon.
Our culture worships fame more than ever before; it seems "celebrity" has become the ultimate career goal. As someone who's achieved fame, what would you say to people about the reality of that experience?
One's own reality is so subjective. For some people, "celebrity" is a huge achievement. I've always felt like I wanted to do something that mattered, that affected people, that said something, that had a voice. I know it seems strange, but that idea is actually is not for everyone.
Like L.A., Miami has a reputation for hedonism, and a lot of people move here and become immersed in money and parties and drugs. What would you say to young women who might feel like they're losing themselves in that world?
I understand the need to let go and feel nothing and enjoy life, especially in a society and world that doesn't support living life with a deeper meaning, so to those women, I would say, "Enjoy yourselves. Enjoy that life. But don't get lost there." You know, my dad always used to say to me: "Go to the edge, look over it, but then come back." And that means don't be afraid of the dark side — of going there and even enjoying it — but don't live there. Certainly don't waste your life there, and don't die there.
Do you think society's attitudes toward women are starting to change?
Yes, absolutely. I'm very fortunate to be living during a time in which there are many opportunities for women that there were not just a few years ago. Women are able to do so many incredible things now and are in such great positions of power. It's incredibly inspiring.
You've accomplished so much in the literary and dramatic arts. What else is on your list of future pursuits or projects?
I feel like I'm just getting started. It's a wonderful feeling to know that I've searched for so long to have a voice outside of acting but also as an actress as well, and I feel like I have that voice now. I feel like I can truly say to you, "I know who I am," and that's terrifying, as opposed to before when I would say, "I don't know who I am," and that's also terrifying. Understand the difference? Right now, I'm working on a novel, a fourth book of poetry, and my next feature film. Lots more to come.
What's your all-time favorite poem?
Without question Jack Hirschman's "Path."
Your work covers some pretty dark themes, though you clearly have an amazing sense of humor and love to laugh too. How do you balance the serious with the silly in your life?
Well, for starters, and I guess for enders too, I have an incredible husband who is a comedian and makes me laugh all the time. Sometimes when I'm in some of the darkest places and exploring some of the darkest works, that's right when he'll make me laugh the hardest. I so appreciate that he doesn't take seriously the things that I take far too seriously. It's an incredible balance. Love is a delicate, magical, extraordinary thing.
Appearing on the New Poems: A Reading panel Saturday, November 22, at noon in Centre Gallery, 300 NE Second Ave., Building 1, 3rd floor, room 1365. Admission is free. Visit MiamiBookFair.com for details.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.