Lost Poem For A Princess

Charlotte Casiraghi in a red dress. [Source: Stylophile]When she posted this photo of Charlotte Casiraghi, accompanied somewhere out of the frame by designer Karl Lagerfeld, Stylophile noted dryly, “It must be nice being a princess.” Maybe, I thought, but there is the tawdry business of kissing all those frogs along the way. It was the red dress, not the name, that caught my attention. I didn’t know who Charlotte Casiraghi was. After a quick search, I realized that I once sent a poem to her mother!

I was a penniless poet living in a dilapidated water mill on the Little Miami River. She was Princess Caroline of Monaco. I had more hair then, none of it gray. She was a notorious wild child on the international celebrity scene. I took a chance on a 22-cent aerogramme. She never replied.

The poem, I think, was titled “On the Idea of Princesses.” I just ransacked my literary archives, a musty box stratified like the geologic record, but couldn’t find a copy. Nothing unusual about that. As I wrote my first book of poems in 1977, I typed a few copies of the day’s output and sent them off to friends and strangers all around the world. Princess Caroline was one of them. I liked the idea of someone somewhere finding an unexpected envelope among the bills and junk mail. Open it and there was a poem, nothing more. The apparent futility of the gesture meant as much as the poem itself. Publishing poems this way was more real to me than other options at the time. The “book” was a kind of conceptual art project. Some of the manuscript lived in Paris long before I ever got there in the flesh.

I’ll keep digging for the princess poem. Maybe Tom Roberts has a copy — he has a better archive of my writing from this period than I do.

Meanwhile, Caroline, if you’re still out there, I know you kept it. Please send it back.

This entry was posted in 1970s, fashionista, memoir, poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Lost Poem For A Princess

  1. odilean says:

    this is wonderful. was it a kind of love poem? i hope it was. i want to know what else you’ve written and where i can get my hands on it!

  2. tomrobertstennessee says:

    Dear Mark,
    I don’t remember that poem, but I will dig through the archives after I return to Tennessee March 20th. Sorry I haven’t sent you some digital photos from here yet. On Sunday I was knocked off my feet by strep throat, and my energy is just now starting to return. I’ve done one good plein air drawing here, one that’s mediocre, and one that’s developing. My conversational Spanish, however, has taken a giant leap forward. My conversations often have some measure of spontaneity.
    HEY, I love how you have become the fashionista! It makes sense to me; it fits your lifelong appreciation of the ladies, everything feminine and “happening art.” I really want to quote from memory (for Odilean and other readers) some of the wonderful poems you wrote in the 1970’s, but feel I might be trespassing some boundaries, (especially if I were to butcher them).
    But I will dig through the archives when I return!

    Dos huevos
    cada llevando una piel
    como suave tan porcelain
    La refrigadora canturre
    como un cantador aburrido de la vida
    Yo la quiero
    y su pelo barriendo sobre mi techo

  3. tomrobertstennessee says:

    Mark,
    Unfortunately, I butchered your poem in Spanish. I went over it with the lovely teacher, Lucie from Columbia, who is a student of poetry in Spanish. Here is a better translation:

    Dos Huevos
    Cada uno llevando piel
    tan suave y opaco como porcelana
    la refrigeradora cantarrea
    como un cantante aburrido
    en un café
    yo la quiero
    y su pelo barriendo
    sobre mi pecho
    como una escoba suave

  4. Mark Willis says:

    No hurry, Tom. Take care of your health down there!

    Which poem is that? It must be the first of mine to be translated into Spanish. Gracias!

  5. Mark Willis says:

    Odilean, it was “kind of” a love poem, in my mind at least. I was writing minimalist poetry then. Maybe I should have erred on the side of florid excess.

    Most of my poetry remains unpublished. Let me think about a way to get some of it to you. Since your post sent me down memory lane, I’ve been looking at some of the poems again with a blogger’s rapacious appetite for untapped content. Some of my essays are published on my old web 1.0 site; I plan to move them here when time permits. Thanks so much for your interest in my writing. As Tom’s friendship attests, I count readers with my blessings.

  6. odilean says:

    you are an editor of a medical school publication?
    small world. guess what i’m studying now…

  7. Mark Willis says:

    Actually, I am a research administrator, but editing and webmaster duties are part of the job. Medical education has been pretty good to me for 24 years. I hope it’s treating you as well. I’m guessing that you aren’t doing clerkships right now, or you wouldn’t have time to blog.

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