SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2014 NSW PREMIER'S LITERARY AWARD
marionette is a poetic biography of early cinema actress Marion Davies, who lived the prime of her life under the careful gaze of her lover of more than thirty years, William Randolph Hearst. Being involved with such a powerful man was bound to have its cost; Marion’s story is marked by whispers, gossip, rumors, lies, and plot holes. This biography is an attempt to reanimate one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic and charitable figures in a manner befitting her playful and mischievous character.
In this virtuoso production, Jessica L Wilkinson entrancingly induces one of Hollywood’s forgotten figures, actress Marion Davies, to “step onto the page/and off again”. With precursors in Muriel Rukeyser and Susan Howe, Wilkinson’s work is at the forefront of feminist documentary poetics. Her words soar and hum across the blank space, creatively transforming traces of and desire for Davies’ person through a screen of persuasion, tenderness, and intensity. Wilkinson’s poetry teases and provokes the reader to join her in a deeply rich affective and critical adventure into the “Impossible”. marionette will resonate for many years to come and heralds one of the most exciting new voices to poetry’s global stage.
This biographical doll biography is a model of extraction and the unsettled page. Wilkinson’s foray is a tense meditation that denies the marginality of a human life: every one deserves more than a sober prosaic column. Wilkinson’s pages aren't static but buzz like a thousand Susan Howeflies awakening to a kiss.
It’s an unlikely obsession for a young Australian poet-scholar: the life and career of Marion Davies, a U.S. film star infamous for her long affair with publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The reasons for the attraction, though, flicker through these formally inventive pages like the beam of a movie projector. Davies is a mystery to be solved; a woman of great talent and ambition bound to a controlling older man; and a survivor of an era-defining shift from silent film to talkies. Her vibrant comic performances ultimately escape Hearst’s puppetry. Wilkinson’s poetry mirrors not only Davies’ struggles but also her intelligence, intensity, and defiance.
Jessica L. Wilkinson lives and writes in Melbourne, Australia. Her poems have appeared internationally in journals, books and newspapers. She is the founding editor of Rabbit: a journal for non-fiction poetry. In 2011 she gained her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature through the University of Melbourne, and she currently lectures in Creative and Professional Writing at RMIT University.
Jessica L. Wilkinson, marionette: a biography of miss marion davies
112pp. 2012. ISBN 978 1 922181 03 9