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Becoming the Villainess Paperback – March 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Jeannine Hall Gailey’s poetry will unleash anyone’s inner "Bad Girl." Alternately funny, violent, wicked, and sad, Gailey presents mythic archetypes in a surprising new light against a backdrop of pop culture, Ovid, Grimm’s fairy tales, and the struggles of contemporary women, in surprisingly refreshing poems like "When Red Becomes the Wolf" and the title poem, "Becoming the Villainess." A strong follow-up to her chapbook Female Comic Book Superheroes (Pudding House Press 2005), in Becoming the Villainess "Gailey writes with a voice full of wit and charm that keeps the reader somewhat off balance," declares Colleen McElroy, winner of the American Book Award, professor at the University of Washington, and editor of The Seattle Review. "She serves a dish of fairy tales and myths, part vixen and part Carol Burnett. Hers is an edginess that makes new those tales with which we are familiar." Steel Toe Books selected Becoming the Villainess as its first solicited manuscript.

We at Steel Toe Books concur with Ilya Kaminsky, winner of the prestigious Whiting Writer's Award and the Dorset Prize, when he states that "in this splendidly entertaining debut, Jeannine Hall Gailey offers us a world both familiar and magical.... The wild and seductive energy in this collection never lets one put the book down... Her delivery is heart-breaking and refreshing, so the poems seduce us with the sadness, glory and entertainment of our very own days. Propelled by Jeannine Hall Gailey’s alert, sensuous and musical gifts, the mythology becomes our own."

Gailey, who earned an MA in English at the University of Cincinnati and is pursuing her MFA at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, is a master at weaving her pop-culture poems, such as "Spy Girls" and "Amazon Women on the Moon," with classical myth and fairy tales, in poems like "Cinderella at the Car Dealership" and "Playing Softball With Persephone," that in the words of Dorianne Laux "give dimension to the powerful (and powerless) female heroes of myth and comic books that struggle against the stereotype and silence." Here’s an excerpt from Gailey’s Pushcart Prize-nominated poem "Wonder Woman Dreams of the Amazon": My daily transformation
from prim kitten-bowed suit to bustier

with red-white-and-blue stars
is less disturbing. The invisible jet
makes for clean escapes.

The animals are my spies and allies;
inexplicably, snow-feathered doves
appear in my hands. I capture Nazis

and Martians with boomerang grace.
When I turn and turn, the music plays louder,
the glow around me burns white-hot,

I become everything I was born to be,
the dreams of the mother,
the threat of the father.

Gailey’s poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Columbia Poetry Review, Verse Daily, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Rattle, and 32 Poems, among others. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband.

About the Author

Jeannine Hall Gailey has a Master's Degree in English from the University of Cincinnati, and is currently studying for her MFA in Poetry at Pacific University. She volunteers as a literary magazine and book reviewer at and also as Web editor (and currently, Guest Poetry Editor) at The Raven Chronicles. She also has a chapbook, Female Comic Book Superheroes, published by Pudding House Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Steel Toe Books (March 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974326437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974326436
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers and The Robot Scientist's Daughter. Her poems have been featured on NPR's The Writer's Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. She was awarded a 2007 and 2011 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize for Poetry and a 2007 Washington State Artist Trust GAP grant. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. Russell on April 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jeannine Hall Gailey's first book of poetry does not disappoint. The poems are witty and moving, smart and surprising. With titles such as "Playing Softball with Persephone," "Amazon Women on the Moon," and "While Reading Glamour in a Dark Age," you cannot help but want to turn the page to see what comes next.

Of "Female Comic Book Superheroes," Gailey writes that they "are always fighting evil in a thong,/pulsing techno soundtrack in the background/as their tiny ankles thwack/against the bulk of male thugs."

Gailey's poems play with myth, reality, pop-culture, and everything else in between but with a feminist's touch and a poet's hand. Intellectual and accessible, this is wonderful debut collection that I highly recommend.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Becoming the Villainess is the debut collection of free-verse poetry by journalist Jeannine Hall Gailey. Addressing the archtypes of myth, from modern pop culture to Ovid to Grimm's fairy tales, Gailey weaves words expressing the hearts of shunned, reviled, justly and unjustly treated villainesses and female victims of fable. A dramatic, moving collection; each poem has a gripping personal story to tell. "Daphne, Older": Peel back my skin: / reveal hard fibers, bite marks, // scars from wind and rain. / Life is pain - I won't tell you // any different. Just that sometimes, / avoiding what you fear // isn't the answer. See? All these years / my branches sang with birds // and my leaves drank sunlight- / I haven't missed much. // My heartwood hardens slowly / over time - first, to the music, then, to the light.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lisa R. Galloway on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jeannine Hall Gailey's book is fresh and edgy. Her collection empowers women by splicing narratives from mythology and fairy tales with modern subjects like video games and anime, giving voice to silenced women and retelling their stories with a feminist perspective. Following in the poetic footsteps of many greats, including Louise Gl?ck and Margaret Atwood, Gailey's book is sure to grasp your attention early and hold you till the end, surprising you at each step with the strength of her craft and the honesty of her own experiences told through the framework of persona poetry.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tamara K. Sellman on March 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a gem of a book. The poems are accessible and imaginative, the poetics are thoughtful and expertly crafted, and the subject matter steers clear of the archaic and esoteric which belabors so much of contemporary poetry.

Gailey navigates popular culture, contemporary feminism, fairy tales, superheroes and the world of electronica with terrific finesse and a sharp sense of humor. Her voice rings clear as a bell in this collection and I can't wait to see what she's got next.

She could be a Billy Collins for the younger women in contemporary America who have already traced the roots of their power back to Suffrage and see that feminism isn't just about bra-burning and symbology, but about using what our mothers gave us: voices, brains, and mettle.

I'm inspired.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan J. Slaviero on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Becoming the Villainess is hands-down one of my favorite books of persona poems! Gailey takes the familiar tropes of myth & fairy tale and transforms them into an experience of the strange, the even-stranger, the wicked & unexpected. Like Sexton's Transformations, these poems recall the stories of childhood, all the while adding depth and even a touch of humor to temper the heart-breaking moments created in this fabulous collection.
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