Regardless I mourn the lost of Michael Jackson, not because I was his biggest fan, or because I will miss out on the music he might have made if he had lived, but because he was an "other" and society needs more "others." Jackson was by most people's standards a freak. The media and popular opinion desperately wanted to cast him as a villain or a monster, but I never bought it. I don't think he did anything to any kid. I think he was a broken person, who wanted to help others, but didn't always know how to communicate that.
There is little doubt Jackson will go down as a great musician, but I also hope he will be remembered as someone who never found it easy being a celebrity, but devoted his life to his art and passion, even if it cost him his happiness.
With the death of Jackson there will also be a flood of Jackson poems. There's already a few out there and I can't wait to see the results. Celebrities in poems is a great interest of mine. I love lots of these poems, from Frank O'Hara's famous Lana Turner poem to Sharon Olds's Marilyn Monroe poem to Tony Hoagland's newish poem about Brittany Spears. I enjoy it when good writers take up celebrities and do something interesting with them. I've done it in my own work by writing a whole Brad Pitt sequence, oh and a poem about Kevin Bacon's dick.
A celebrity's death often provides an interesting jumping off point for a great poem, but also plenty of chance to write a bad one. I'm sure if I googled "Michael Jackson poems" I'd find plenty of terrible tributes already on the internet. This is sad and will give poetry about celebrities a bad name. What I mean by celebrity poems is poems that take celebrities and do something more with them than just say I love whoever. The best celebrity poems, in my opinion, aren't actually about the celebrity. For example my Brad Pitt poems have very little to do with Brad Pitt. Pitt is important to them and works as this symbol of straight masculinity, but in reality the poems are about a gay couple and the struggle to stay together. Olds poem is another great example. She writes about the men who cared Monroe's body from her house and the imagined effects it had on them and their sex lives. It's an amazing poem and Monroe is vital to it, but not the only focus. The goal is to tell the reader something new and give them a new perspective.
For me it takes time to process a situation and find my grounding in it. Will Jackson be appearing in an upcoming poem of mine? Possibly, but only time will tell and only if the idea is right and the words find me. You can't pressure yourself with poetry, like I felt pressured to write this post. It will come when it's ready.
For now I'll sit back and watch the craziness unfold. I'll watch people and media who once vowed to send him to jail mourn him and pretend they loved him. I'll watch Jackson take the spotlight off, dare I say it, more important news stories. I'll be blown away at the idea of Jackson's death nearly breaking the internet by so many people reacting on social networking sites. And I'll wait for what might creep up and suddenly take hold of me.
-Stephen (I'll be There)