Thursday, 1 July 2021

Welcome, poets and poetry fans. Poetry Friday is here this week. You’ll find the link-up at the bottom of this post.

One of the last trips I made before the Covid-19 lockdown was to Tallahassee, Florida. My friend, poet Michael Rothenberg, took me to a magical spot, Wakulla Springs. During a boat tour of the freshwater springs its wildlife (alligators! manatees!), I learned that — because the water is so clear — the classic horror movie Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed here for its underwater scenes.

I knew I would write a poem about it, but it was an amorphous idea. Until… I read a small note on Wikipedia that the woman who designed the famous Creature of the movie, the Gill Man, had been erased from cinema history by her disgruntled boss.

Artist Millicent Patrick with the Gill Man.

My poem, “Millicent Patrick Speaks of Monsters,” recently won honorable mention in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s annual poetry contest. I was thrilled!

Here is the poem, followed by some resources for further reading.

Milicent Patrick Speaks of Monsters
by Laura Shovan

The studio wanted
a sad, beautiful monster
for their black lagoon.
Imagine the lone, lonely survivor
of an ancient race–
half-man, half-fish, they said.
I sensed his presence. His
rough skin, deep gator green.
His dank, amphibious scent.
Special effects made the underwater suit,
but the creature’s face
belonged to me. It had to be hideous,
yet human enough a girl
could almost fall in love.
I sculpted muttonchop gills,
voluptuous lips, sorrowful, sloping eyes…

Read the rest at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s poetry page.

After I wrote my poem, I had to learn  more about Millicent Patrick.

I recommend the biography The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, by Mallory O’Meara. (I listened to the audiobook.)

And if you love learning about important women whose stories have been lost to history — until now — check out the What’s Her Name podcast.

Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday link-up. You know what to do!

42 responses to “Poetry Friday from the Black Lagoon”

  1. Congrats on your wonderful poem Laura! I love your description of the creature,
    “I sculpted muttonchop gills,
    voluptuous lips, sorrowful, sloping eyes. ”

    And thanks for highlighting Millicent Patrick another women artist deserving recognition.
    Great clip of the film too!

  2. Tabatha says:

    Science fiction poetry and overlooked women? YES. Love the zing of the title! Thanks for teaching us about Millicent Patrick and for hosting!

  3. Molly Hogan says:

    Laura, your poem is wonderful. As Tabatha says, the title packs a wallop, and that ending, too. Thanks for sharing Millicent Patrick’s story, congratulations, and thanks for hosting!

  4. Beautiful poem – congratulations on its award! So cool to learn about the woman who created this creature’s iconic look.

  5. […] of water…my friend Laura Shovan is hosting Poetry Friday today with a poem about Millicent Patrick, the woman who designed the […]

  6. Linda Baie says:

    Wonderful, Laura, that “and never saw the creature” zings with a brightness and a sorrow for all those who’ve had that happen. Thanks for the extra links and congratulations! Thanks for hosting, too!

  7. Elisabeth says:

    What a wonderful poem, and what a fabulous person to celebrate. It is heartening to see people whose contributions were erased from history, or claimed by others, receive their rightful credit, even if it is so long after the fact. Each affirmation like this is a reminder to us in the present to recognize and give credit for contributions and achievements where it’s due. Thanks for hosting today!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Elisabeth. Yes, it is heartening. This is what makes me love the What’s Her Name podcast so much. It’s hosted by sisters who are historians. I’ve learned so much from the series.

  8. Laura, I recall seeing this film as a child. so I have a small reference point. Thank you for the fascinating back story to this classic film and for introducing me to Milicent Patrick and her deserving story, which I am curious to further explore. Congratulations on the recognition your poem has received- I loved the lines -‘I sensed his presence. His rough skin, deep gator green.
    His dank, amphibious scent.’ -powerful imagery! Thank you also for hosting.

  9. Linda Mitchell says:

    I absolutely will check out ‘What’s Her Name’ podcast. And, HOORAY for your winning, published poem. That’s fabulous. Your description of this love the artist has for her work is layered with meaning…that last line. BAM! Nice work. I’m glad your work was recognized. Thank you for hosting this week. I’m off on another reunion trip to western NY for the Fourth.

  10. Fascinating. I can’t wait to learn more about Millicent Patrick! Congratulations on your poem and thank you for educating with your art! Thanks for hosting us this week.

  11. Rose Cappelli says:

    Congratulations on your winning poem, Lauren, and for bringing Millicent Patrick’s story to light. Writing it in first person works so well. I especially like the description of the creature’s face – “muttonchop gills, voluptuous lips, sorrowful, sloping eyes.” And thanks for hosting.

  12. My, what range you have, my dear! I love this kind of poem, where we conjecture and land on real truth. Congrats on the near-win, and thank you for hosting!

  13. Appreciations to you dear Laura (& to the inventive M.R.) for this waterworld romp that especially cheers me for the location! I am also singing YES! at the gobsmack of. your ending two lines.
    Millicent Patrick must be splashing in the Great Clear Lagoon of EverAfter with this late & needed recognition.
    (I always did wonder about that Gill Man’s lips :::::)
    Applause for the judges’ recognizing your poem & leave it to you to know a category of poems likely new to many of us – ScienceFiction poetry is something for me to check into now.

    Hope Baltimore does a great return-to-Democracy salute this 4th of July Weekend. Wishes for your Family’s Sweet Fun.

  14. I love how you have honored Millicent Patrick with your winning poem. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing it here and giving me another deep dive into research. That’s what I love about summer, time to read every post. Thanks for hosting.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Margaret. Thank you. I was so happy to find the biography about her, which explained the context of the times and of Millicent’s own fascinating life.

  15. […] Shovan has the link for today’s Poetry Friday here. Thanks for hosting, […]

  16. Congratulations, Laura! Your poem sure packs a punch. Too many women have been drowned out by those “creature[s] lurking in the shadows.” I’m glad you introduced us to Milicent Patrick and shared the link to her biography. Thank you for hosting today. Enjoy your summer!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Catherine. Unfortunately, that’s true and Millicent Patrick wasn’t in a position to fight for herself and challenge her boss at the time.

  17. Susan T. says:

    What a great poem! Congrats on your award.

  18. Irene Latham says:

    Dear Laura, thank you for bringing Millicent and her monster to life in your poem. Congratulations on the publication! Also, thanks for the mention of Wakulla Springs. My mom lives near there, and I have yet to go. Must remedy! Happy summer, and thank you for hosting. xo

  19. Laura,
    Congratulations! Thank you for hosting. It was interesting to read how this experience inspired your poetry and further research. I don’t know if I ever saw that movie; I’ll have to watch it. Thank you for recognizing the accomplishments of this creative woman!

  20. Denise Krebs says:

    Congratulations on your placing in this contest. It was fun to read all the BSFS poems. I love the title of your piece and these last lines that show the real monster in the scene:
    “I gave them what they wanted–
    a lovesick monster, gentle fiction–
    and never saw the creature
    lurking in the shadows.”

    Thank you for hosting Poetry Friday today.

  21. Great poem and one of the many stories of the credit for a woman’s creative achievement being taken by her boss. My mother lived in Florida and I loved going to Blue Springs park near Deland to see the manatees. They were fascinating. No other creatures real or imagined ever appeared.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Janice. It’s amazing how long this story stayed buried. I’m grateful for Mallory O’Meara and others who uncovered Millicent Patrick’s story.

  22. Laura, I think every time I wrote a response I have been interrupted. Thus, nothing was sent. Sorry about that. I am excited about your recent award. Your poem is noteworthy, not only for its content and research but for its message..
    “a boys’ club lie that hung on me
    thick as Spanish mosnk.blogspot
    Love the truth coming out toward the end of the poem. I still cannot imagine how women were not given the acknwledgment they deserve,

  23. […] ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 Laura Shovan takes us to the Black Lagoon for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. […]

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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