Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Amber Tamblyn. She is an author, actress and director. She’s been nominated for an Emmy, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award for her work in television and film. She is the author of three books of poetry including the critically acclaimed bestseller, Dark Sparkler. And her debut novel, Any Man, is available from Harper Perennial.

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By Amber Tamblyn


I’m told Joni Mitchell took my newborn baby feet into her palms,
Called them sweet cashews and kissed their soles. 
I lay there in my Father’s arms, a sedated frog,
A fleshy spit of fresh molecule juice.

I’m told my body is shaped like a Renaissance.
Every socket holds a potential revolution,
My gate syncs to Preludes in the key of D minor.

I’m told women have more nerve endings in their hands than men.
That this is a scientific fact.

I’m told Galileo wept at how big his hands looked, how small they felt,
While pointing at the stars.

A book written by every one of God’s representatives tells me
Salvation is for everyone except God.

I’m told your poems are about me.  All of them.
Even when they’re about “Jennifer”.
Even when dedicated to “Mother.”

I was told we met in the 90’s.  You shook my hand and told me
I would not remember you saying that I am the love of your life.

I’m told in 38 years I will lose a child.
The psychic on Astor Place only charged me $10 out of sympathy.

I’m told we should write more vague prayers for rock stars
And send them up into the sky on helium balloon strings.

She was told you kept her letters like Bazooka gum wrappers.
You broke her cigarette heart like an addict you thought could be saved.

I took her in my arms that night and melted a warm tongue across her ear,
Until she was drowning in the deafness of Oh,
Until my poetry pulsed from her face like French, Euros in a fountain in Flagstaff.

I told her the only thing you know how to love is the sound of
Cheap plastic high-heels on pavement.  That as a lover, you are simple.
(I made sure you were told.)

I’m told there’s a balcony where my old dresses are hung to dry in Detroit.
I’m told they buried the body with the garter belt still on.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” was the first thing that came to mind when I was asked to write an interview for myself, by myself, in conjunction with myself, while sneaking behind my own back and sleeping with myself. If there’s anything a poet turned actress turned poet needs more in this world, it’s a massive Float to showcase her bedazzled craziness at the Narcissism Parade.

I don’t do well with assigned writing projects. Poems are different. Poems are undigested dreams you finally puke up after a night of no sleep, then feel much better. Writing assignments with no rules make me sweaty. I’m getting hives just thinking about a directionless rant involving my career and “what it’s like to work with Blake Lively” and what influences my writing. This whole experience will most likely implode and inevitably end in 500 thimbles of Maker’s Mark charging down my throat like a Gestapo of Fun Times, while I fumble out a closing statement with my thumbs.

“And that’s how to catch a predator, ladeees and gentilmenz!!” Nobody wants that. Not even Chelsea Handler.

So now that I’ve wasted the 9 minutes you could have used to fix the nail that was improperly filed by your manicurist, let me attempt to make you care, at all, about me and this self interview. I’ve been a poet for as long as I can remember. My mentor, poet Jack Hirschman, submitted my first poem “Kill Me So Much” to the San Francisco Chronicle’s poetry corner when I was 11 years old and it was accepted and printed. That same year I went on my first auditions for television and film, which included a role on the soap opera General Hospital. I got the part of Emily Quartermain after I read a poem I had written to the producers during my audition. They thought this was adorable. I thought this was MIND BLOWINGLY BRILLIANT. During my 7 years on General Hospital, I made two books of poetry (thanks Kinko’s!) entitled Plenty of Ships and Of the Dawn. For the TNB Pedos* reading: Along with poems, these two chapbooks featured melancholy, overly sentimental pictures of me at 14 or 15 wearing heavy eyeliner, naked and wrapped in a white sheet with scattered poems around me and open journals. Oh, how complicated life and love was for a virgin on a soap opera! But I digress.

After I left General Hospital when I was 18, I started writing a lot more. I had enough ammunition for a real book, and so was born my first collection of poems published with Simon & Schuster, Free Stallion, which carried a fierce young feminist voice. During this same time I had a TV show on the air called Joan of Arcadia about a young girl who talks to God. I played God. Jeremy Piven played the girl.

Are you bored yet? Good.

When Joan of Arcadia ended a few years after it’s success, so did a relationship with an East coast poet (if you could call it a relationship, I’m still not sure) as well as many other ideas about my identity and what I wanted for my life. Everything was dying off and making way for new. It was the great Autumn of my 20’s. (Eat your heart out, Hemingway!) Around this time I met two poets who changed me fundamentally. Mindy Nettifee and Derrick Brown. Together we formed the Blacksmith Collective, which was and still is a sacred secret club of creative awesomeness. We were a part of it and it was a part of us. The Collective worked tirelessly to create a movement within the poetry community and recharge the dead bolts of modern poetry shows. We’d read our poems with musicians, with mimes, with magicians, with Lubriderm (you heard me). Sometimes we wouldn’t read at all, we’d just talk shit to the stage curtains while demanding our stolen flasks back from each other’s tongues. We wanted poetry shows to be funny, thought provoking, moving and unpredictable. We wanted them to feel more like mosh pits then olive pits. The Collective created The Drums Inside Your Chest, an annual poetry show going on it’s 5th year here in Los Angeles which showcases some of the country’s greatest performers and writers. Write Bloody Press was formed by Derrick Brown during this time, as was Write Now Poetry Society. It was an incredibly collaborative and productive beginning to what we all do as poets today.

Part of the fundamental change I experienced during these last several years was finding humor in my own writing, and abandoning the harsh anger a decade of working in Hollywood had created for me as a young woman. A lot of what I had to put up with was downright funny. It’s funny when a producer tells you to lose 10 pounds in order to be the voice for a cartoon. It’s funny when a crazy executive at 20th Century Fox sends you a WII wrapped in the Xeroxed love poems of Jeffrey McDaniel and hopes for your hand in marriage though you’ve only met him once. It’s funny when you’ve got a movie in theaters that’s making your street cred go straight to DVD. It’s funny when your boyfriend doesn’t understand the difference between a sex scene and real sex. Double standards are funny. Low self- esteem coupled with a reverse Anorexic complex where you don’t understand how no one can see how BANGIN’ you look is FUCKING

Out of all this was born my 2nd book of poetry and prose, Bang Ditto (Manic D Press 2009). If Hilary Clinton went down on Betty White and Joan Crawford rose from the dead to write a book about how jealous it made her, Bang Ditto might be it.

Christ, I just looked at the clock and I’ve been writing this for 3 hours. Thank the Red Hot Chili Peppers it’s over. You are now pretty much up to date on who I am. As far as the future me….I am working on 2 new books, one of which is a collaboration with Marilyn Manson. But more on that next time I serve you a cold plate of Extended Resumes.


A Single Question For Myself If I Was Playing The Role of Richard Ferguson, Poetry Editor of The Nervous Breakdown.

Amber: Richard, do you regret inviting Amber Tamblyn to be featured on The Nervous Breakdown?

Amber as Richard: With all my heart.


* Pedos is short for Pedophiles, you Rubes! (Rubes is short for Rubies. You are beautiful and expensive.)