Seaborn, Heidi: An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe

Seaborn, Heidi: An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe

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PANK Books, paperback

Publication Date: June 10, 2021

Publisher Marketing: Heidi Seaborn’s astonishing second collection of poems, An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe is a middle-of-the-night poetic conversation with Marilyn Monroe that explores obsessions, addictions, abuse, objectification, marriage, work, children, childlessness and death. Pressing on the themes of her acclaimed debut, Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do}, Seaborn illuminates the biographical and emotional journey of Marilyn as intimacies whispered between two women. These are women who have lived “on the glittering edge” and know that when a third husband “draws a blank page from his typewriter,” it means she needs to go to work in a world dominated by men. In An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn is a resilient, intelligent feminist who understands how to accumulate and wield power in the 1950’s. She is also vulnerable, exploited, and broken in so many ways. We see the speaker discover Marilyn until “then she is everywhere,” a haunting presence that becomes both muse and reflection. Seaborn invites us into the poetic soul of the world’s most famous woman with poems that celebrate and mourn. An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe is a sequined meditation on what keeps us up at night and what fills our dreams.


In Heidi Seaborn’s An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn is a voice, a mirror, an Other, a symbol, a goddess, and an archetype. She is also a conveyance for the speaker’s autobiographical material—insomnia, sleeping pills, dangerous embodiment, and lethal disembodiment, until a kiss is nothing but “a transaction of air” and breasts are “tricksters—…pretend(ing) / to guard a heart.” Marilyn enacts, for Seaborn, the objectification women are impaled upon, woman as Selfie, as edible subject, Norman Mailer’s “sweet / bursting peach,” Andy Warhol’s “violent bursting pomegranate.” Indeed, she is the whole alphabet, “mistress, maid, momma, mother, Madonna, mouth, mink, / narcotic, nurse, nutcase, oyster, oh baby.” By the end, the speaker’s empathic identification with her subject is complete, narrating, in tandem with Marilyn, her last hours, exposing “the grief in glamour,” and finally striding off solo, released, as the credits roll. Something profound has shifted. The insomniac sleeps. For all of its intensity, this collection is as brilliantly composed as a Dior dress. I am in love and in awe. --Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, and Four-Legged Girl

Heidi Seaborn’s An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe is warning, celebration, homage, critique: at the center of this collection is the icon of all icons, a Marilyn Monroe whom Seaborn excavates and revitalizes, making poems out of documents, letters, photos, empathy, and projection. How much can anyone really understand of another’s life, especially a life as examined and invented as Monroe’s? And isn’t every portrait also, as you’ll find here, a portrait of its maker? These questions, like the aftershocks of sexism, like the tiny white Ambien pill, like the eerie dreads of the sleepless, course through these poems of obsession to give us a lively and novel meditation on fame, addiction, loneliness, and the performance of femininity, where breasts are called “precious tickets to a carnival,” where “charm becomes armor.” --Catherine Barnett, Author of Human Hours and The Game of Boxes

“I too have lived on that glittering edge,” Heidi Seaborn writes. Indeed. Seaborn’s voice is lively and urbane; vivid pains and pleasures abound on every page of this lush, glitteringly alive new book of poems.” --Deborah Landau, Author of Soft Targets and Uses of the Body

“In this exquisite poetry book, Seaborn follows Marilyn Monroe from an orphanage in Los Angeles to her rise as a sex-kitten bomb shell blowing kisses. Decades after her death, the reader comes to feel real emotion for Monroe’s struggle with insomnia, an abusive foster father and three husbands, and the news of her overdose. In the quiet genius of the poems, Seaborn makes us hope—absurdly, against all odds—for a different ending to the story and shows us that the public adoration of beautiful women often aspires to bed and destroy them at the same time. Instead, Seaborn asks, what if were to give Monroe’s ghost her body, her name, the color of her hair? What if this time we were to crawl into bed with her just to help her fall asleep?” --Elvira Basevich, [PANK] Poetry Book Judge and author of How to Love the World