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Marilyn, or No Girl Sets Out to Die: November Butterfly Poetry Prompt 1

COVER Image -Front RC 03 (2) 300 dpi 1024“…the reverse birth image never left me, of petals, hummingbirds, and Marilyn trying to breathe…” Marilyn, Arriving: Collage, Astrology and Poetry (Feral Mom, Feral Writer)

November Butterfly (my first poetry collection, Saddle Road Press) comes out in thirty days! I’m anxious, nervous, and excited. Book launch in San Diego will be hosted by San Diego Writers, Ink, where you can join me for a writing workshop/reading event on November 1 at 2:30. We will write to our heroes, public and private, and use the medium of paper cutouts to explore core imagery. Sign up here for the Writing Past Fear: Free Your Butterfly workshop; no need to sign up if you come for the reading only portion of the program at 3:30.

If you can’t make it to an event (I’m busy booking them for the November 2014-2015 calendar year as we speak—check my Events page), join me here on the website for a hands-on, writing count-down to publication. During the month of October, I’ll be posting prompts for you based on the iconic women who inspired the poems in November Butterfly.

On November 1, I’ll do a drawing to give away two copies of November Butterfly for free. To play, write to the prompts (prose or poetry), leave me a comment here on the site on your writing process (as it relates to the prompts) during the month of October, and I’ll put your name in the hat. Winners: I’ll publish your finished favorite response (prose or poetry) generated by the prompts on this site.

Inadvertently, over the last seven years, as I wrote the poems that would become November Butterfly, I left a trail of process posts regarding writing and the iconic women igniting my imagination on the path to understanding what it means to be female, creative, and curious.  Here’s an excerpt from Marilyn, Arriving: Collage, Astrology and Poetry to get you started thinking about Marilyn with me:

I never met her–but there she stood on the back of one of the bedroom doors in our house, gracing a poster taller than my parents. I remember falling asleep to that black and white image: city street, sturdy legs, skirt billowing up, one hand holding down the pleats but not really. It was either my brother’s poster or a poster we pitched in for my father—I can’t remember—grade school. Maybe 7th grade…

 …As I made the transition from graduate student to working teacher that winter, I made collages. This particular one featured a stained glass cathedral window, the grey and white photo of a hummingbird, the fanned feathers of its extended wings mirroring the white fan of that same girl’s skirt, same pose. The hummingbird and the girl were separated by a close-up of the petals of a rose, and one of those angels stepping down out of the sky in silken robes on the verge of catching fire.

Marilyn 2 photo Robyn Beattie

  • Under what circumstances did you first become aware of Marilyn Monroe? What haunts or irritates you about Marilyn?
  • Address her directly: Dear Marilyn… Or, alternately, allow her to address you…
  • Or use as a first line, “No girl sets out to die…”
  •  Write, without stopping if you can, for at least twenty minutes.

Additional Links:

For a solid introduction on the concept of persona poems:

Teaching the Persona Poem, by Rebecca Hazelton (Poetry Foundation)

For full process backstory on writing the poem Marilyn (forthcoming in November Butterfly):

Marilyn, Arriving: Collage, Astrology, and Poetry at Feral Mom, Feral Writer

Full text of poem was originally published by Salome Magazine: Marilyn

October 9, 2014 additional link:

Maria Popova, Brain Pickings: Marilyn Monroe’s Unpublished Poems: The Complex Private Person Behind the Public Persona


Ways you can support November Butterfly:

1) To support Saddle Road Press, contact me here to order the book directly from me after November 1st. It will also be available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format.

2) While Saddle Road Press has given me the gift of the book (a life dream come true! I remain indebted to Ruth Thompson and Don Mitchell!) the gift of marketing is mine–a foreign set of tasks this poet/mother/writer is just now learning to navigate. I like to think of it as “authentic connecting” instead of “marketing”; to that end, I’d love support across blogs, radio, or other review venues. Contact me for an advanced review copy  (PDF or hardcopy) this month if you are interested. I’m also very excited about the writing workshops I’m teaching in tandem with the collection’s content and am looking for venues to teach in a modest number of cities.

3) Follow me on Twitter  (@TaniaPry) to help me spread the word about events.


November Butterfly book cover photo and black and white photo above by Robyn Beattie; cover design for November Butterfly by Don Mitchell.

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    1. Here is my twenty minute response to your prompt. You want us to post them here, right?
      Let me know if you’d rather not. xooxo S

      No girl sets out to die….even if she scales rock faces with
      Patagonia printed on the nylon pants stretched across her muscled calves.

      Marilyn, in your innocent blue jean shorts, back when you were Norma Jean,
      looked so much like my younger sister, blonde, full lips, laughing in the wind.
      We related to your image on posters around the house, as if you, being so similar
      to her fair skin, lush thighs and hint of wildness, were just another of the four
      of us girls.

      But you seemed so alone. Surrounded only by women who were brimming over their DD cups in nightclubs seething at your charm, repelled by the magnetic power that oozed out of your glow. I never see pictures of you laughing in the surf with a swarm of women friends, knowing full well that the glee in the surf was likely precluded by an hour of tears and truth telling on a blanket in the sun. I never see you clustered with women friends, baring all, in the shelter of sisterhood.

      I only see you on the elbows of men, baring other than your soul.
      I only see you on posters, posing precariously on high heels cut to be slightly uneven to enhance the swing of your hips.
      I only see you stretched across satin sheets with the most delicious red lipstick smeared across your full lips.
      I only see you perched in response to the men in your life, the secretive, furtive life you led, the harsh glare of the public on your every move.

      What would have happened if you lived in a house with other women, chefs or poets or lobbyists or gardeners or women who were starting companies? What if you’d had a life like so many young actresses I know, taking class, waitressing and then sitting around a scrappy kitchen table with a candle burning in a chianti bottle, smoking cigs and eating Mint Milanos, sorting out our days together? What if you’d had a the equivalent of Sex in the City or Thelma and Louise or even Rhoda as a vehicle to showcase your talents instead of every single movie you made that created a stereotype? What if we’d had images of you mountain climbing instead of slurring the Happy Birthday song?

      No girl sets out to die. Not one girl starts her life thinking she will end it at her own hand. No girl turns towards the camera and says, “Go ahead, and make me an icon.” I see you suffer from the blasting glare of public attention on every loss, slip, or mistake. I see you so alone.

      If you only you could have hopped off one of those posters and in to one of the many homes that had you tacked on the wall, where you’d have a plaid bedspread and electric rollers and the assignment to set the table on Thursday nights.

      I only wish you’d had a friend, or some sisters, nosy, pestering and persistent in making sure you had everything you needed to be who you came here to be, which cannot, no matter what you believe, could not have been a girl who set out to die. We would not have let you.

      SBB 10.2.14

      • Tania says:

        Just beautiful Suzi–yes, I invite everyone to submit their response as a comment or to comment about their process of writing to the prompt. I love your questions, your fertile imaginings here. Yes, yes, yes. Maybe in retrospect, after the fact, the sisterhood is finding her here, now, something good making an attempt to salve, heal, shed light towards the difficult…which is how I experienced your words. Beautiful…