Review of “Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe” by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is a work of fiction written in free verse as if it came from the pen of Marilyn Monroe. It begins with the epigraph, “No one knows how it feels inside my troubled mind. No one wants to.” That latter statement isn’t quite true.

Marilyn Monroe was a legend in her own time and remains a major icon of pop culture and source of fascination long after her death – allegedly by suicide – in 1962. (The cause of death has remained controversial and is the subject of many conspiracy theories involving the Kennedy brothers, inter alia.)

She did leave an archive of diaries, poems, and letters, excerpts of which were not published until 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux as Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe (Bernard Comment, Editor). These texts shed some light on Marilyn’s psyche and private life, but much was not revealed. As Weatherford writes in one of her poems in this new imagining, “Some secrets I will carry to my grave.”

Nevertheless, Weatherford does try to envisage what Marilyn must have felt like throughout her life, through a series of poems that take us through the many heartbreaking, and much fewer exhilarating, moments of Marilyn’s life.

Weatherford’s choices of what to include don’t always seem understandable. For example, why is there a whole poem/chapter delineating the plot of the movie “Some Like It Hot”? At least one would expect an analysis of the messages for women and relationships in this movie that seem so clearly offensive now, and may have seemed that way to Marilyn. In any event, those who are interested in what happens in the movie would do better by reading the plot on Wikipedia; it is much clearer in narrative form than in free verse.

Evaluation: I would have to say this book is uneven in quality (some of the poetry sounds as flat as Trump reading from a teleprompter) and the topic coverage is quixotic. On the positive side, Weatherford continues her pattern of featuring women who were maligned in their time, but who employed bravery and perseverance to confront the obstacles presented to them. But Marilyn’s own compilation of thoughts, referenced above, is a much more poignant, affecting work that touches the reader a great deal more. For that matter, so is the song about Marilyn Monroe, “Candle in the Wind,” by Elton John.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Candlewick Press, 2020

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3 Responses to Review of “Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe” by Carole Boston Weatherford

  1. Huh. This sounds like a strange book!

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    I’m with Rachel 🙂

  3. sagustocox says:

    This sounds like an odd book, and I probably would have been disappointed.

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