Wednesday, April 11, 2018
mice, maidens, and evil queens
Fairy tales have probably always been a part of my work from the beginning. My first chapbook THE ARCHAEOLOGIST'S DAUGHTER featured at least one Rapunzel poem and I'm pretty sure there was an early mermaid poem in there somewhere. More would come--wicked stepmothers and Little Red Riding hood in BLOODY MARY. More Little Red Riding Hood in my first artist book THE BOOK OF RED (that later appeared in my FEIGN chapbook from New Michigan Press.) Not to mention lots of fairy tale references in otherwise normal poems, a sort magical-ness amidst the everyday.
In those early years, there were so many allusion and persona poems--not just fairy tales, but mythology, literary characters, historical women, painting subjects. And this is true of many of us, maybe not just younger women poets, maybe younger poets in general of all genders, but so many of us pulling from these things for subject matter and imagery. I always joke that I probably wrote so many of these because what else does a poet in her early 20's have to say that everyone hasn't already heard. But maybe there is more to it, creating stories drawn from other stories. The reason why these stories retain their magic even after centuries. I love folklore, and the way it shifts and changes and moves through populations. The way things spread. ( A co-worker mentioned a local urban ghost legend near her town and I had heard the very same urban legend in my teens about a place out near Rockford--down to very particular details involving talcum powder on the trunk of a car and ghost handprints-- I got really excited about this and nearly fell out of my chair.) also, why I love trawling this sort of subject matter for things like my ARCHER AVENUE Resurrection Mary poems.
I still do this, no doubt, but my subject matter just differs--things I've been researching evidence of this more than anything. My Antoinetta Gonzalez (aka the Renaissance Dog-Girl ) series. My atomic women poems in LITTLE APOCALYPSE. All the research I've done on taxidermy and mechanical animals and Hungarian folklore for UNUSUAL CREATURES. My new fascination with victorian spiritualism and what might come from those possibilities. I've always been about finding material for new texts in old texts. (and being in a library all day certainly helps.)
When I was writing THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS in 2012, which is a kind of suburban fairy tale itself, it didn't necessarily start out that way, but moreso a vague storyline and the math story problems that worked very well with fairy-tale like imagery (esp. re: Goldie Locks and the tension between "wild" and "civilized" or "domestic" spaces. ) When I was done, I was actually surprised by how much it came across that way (evidenced by comments of of a lot of the reviews of the book later on .) I had been writing more to the story and less to the archetypes, but there were there if you looked for them.
Fast forward to this last year, where we've been working on our big Grimm Tales Book to Art endeavor in the library. I've been doing some collage work during our making sessions, but have been considering doing some writing-related work. Since my larger manuscript in progress focuses on eating and body-image issues, what better somehow than Hansel and Gretel for this sort of thing. (I actually have been doing some research on food and eating across fairy tales, but baby steps, I suppose I'll start with just this one.) Since things have been progressing well on the NAPOWRIMO front with another poem series. I thought I might shift gears and devote some energy to these and see if I can't get on a roll and maybe make a mini-chap for the project (there's a deadline of the end of the month for rounding up the project in time for Manifest mid-May.)
I am also watching Grimm on Amazon, so I am nightly steeping myself in fairy tales and murders, so the ground is very fertile in my head right now, so we'll see what comes of it.