While my primary research interests revolve around Marilyn Monroe’s book collection, I also enjoy discovering books owned and written by other famous and interesting people from history. Eartha Kitt, for instance, wrote several autobiographies (see my review of one of her autobiographies here). Recently, I was looking for books Judy Garland owned. While I did not (yet) find any, I learned that Judy Garland wrote a book of poetry, titled Thoughts and Poems, published circa 1939-1940 (The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939). The book was only ten pages long, and given to a select number of friends.
Judy Garland’s poems are raw yet whimsical, with themes of loss, love, and questioning reality. The eight poems included in the book (some of which you can read here) likewise have a Classical feel. Thematically, they remind me of Ovid’s Heroides–ancient poems written from the perspective of mythical women such as Penelope (Odysseus’ wife) and Ariadne (the princess who showed Theseus how to escape the labyrinth).
There was one line, however, that made me think immediately of Homer, and wonder if Judy Garland read The Odyssey. In You are the Dawn (shown below) she describes dawn as having a “sparkly rosy hue” which likewise seems a reference to the Homeric epithet “rosy-fingered Dawn.” The possible reference is subtle, and perhaps coincidental, but it does make me wonder if Judy Garland read The Odyssey as a way to prepare for her role as Dorothy. It seems likely as The Wizard of Oz is a nostos and clearly Odyssean–a story about a hero traveling through fantastical lands to find their way home.
Whether or not Garland was inspired by Homer is entirely speculation at this point. Judy Garland would have been around seventeen when this book was published–certainly old enough to read and comprehend Homer (whose work today is often assigned in high school). Even if Judy Garland was not inspired by Homer, the poetry is still fascinating and worth checking out for those interested in learning about her life.
The book shown in the photographs featured here was sold in auction in 2017 for $1600. You can read a little more about her love of poetry here.