Jul-Aug '03 [Home]

Series/Event Review

Under Their Spell:  The Poets' Grimm at
Teachers & Writers Collaborative (6/17)

. . .

Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors of The Poets' Grimm:  20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, just released from Story Line Press, held their book party and contributor reading at TWC.

Before or after you stared across the crowded room, you saw The Gingerbread House, with cookies, fruit, cheese, and other tempting goodies, and the eye-catching cover of The Poets' Grimm everywhere (where it should be), to celebrate its release from Story Line Press. Editors Beaumont and Carlson—not to carry this metaphor too far—did have that fairy tale glow about them this evening.

I had the opportunity to ask audience members about their favorite Grimm stories that we all had read to us at bedtime, long, long, ago. They made an impression, entertaining with more than a thriller quality that must have made Hitchcock envious. How did we ever fall asleep? And consider how many times we wanted to hear them. Over and over.

They were all here tonight—Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Wicked Witch, Rapunzel, the Prince or Frog—though transformed through the poet's imagination.

Enid Dame's "Cinderella" ("Every daughter has two mothers"), which I had not heard before, is a fine example of the contemporary and earthy update in which there are good/bad mother twists—with humor, satire, and common sense (I almost said 'wisdom') along the way. As so often in the land of faery, appearances cannot be trusted.

Details and images of Regie Cabico's "Hansel Tells Gretel of the Witch" stayed with me:

What I remember is waking to a sweat and licorice
scent. Of course I knew we'd die.

The twisted hair barrette and tattered sock,
soiled beneath my head,

were just reminders of what would come.

Poems read by other contributors—and those of the editors, who did not—are equally rewarding. The conclusion of Anna Rabinowitz's poetically trance-like "Beauty Sleeping Now" is another illustration of the power of the fairy tale, and what can happen when it is re-told:

But this time your eyes fly open
Before Charming plants his kiss upon your lips,

And when His Highness bends
To pluck you from your sleep,
Oh, Beauty, how he withers
As you trap his tongue between your teeth.


The Poets' Grimm:  20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales,
Storyline Press
287 pp. $19.95
ISBN 1-58654-027-0