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.