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Transformations Paperback – Bargain Price, February 15, 2001
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The New York Times
"These poem-stories are a strange retelling of seventeen Grimms fairy tales, including Snow White,” Rumpelstiltskin,” Rapunzel,” The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” The Frog Prince,” and Red Riding Hood.” Astonishingly, they are as wholly personal as Anne Sexton’s most intimate poems. Her metaphoric strength has never been greater really funny, among other things, a dark, dark laughter.” -- C. K. Williams
"A vivid, astonishing, blood-curdling book." -- Stanley Kunitz
"God love her." --Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
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Top Customer Reviews
Her take on "Snow White" refuses to establish heroines or villains. The girl is a lovely virgin, "cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper...lips like Vin du Rhone." The jealous queen, still beautiful at middle age but fearing that time isn't on her side and informed by her mirror she's no longer "the fairest of them all," tries to kill her. For this, she is punished by torture. The twist here is that Sexton makes it clear that some day the virgin girl will meet the queen's fate: "Meanwhile Snow White held court,/ rolling her china-blue eyes open and shut/ and sometimes referring to her mirror/ as women do."
The lesbian implications of "Rapunzel" are brought to the fore, and the transvestite deception of "Little Red Riding Hood" is remarked on. Sexton crashes the dreamy romance of Cinderella with the mundane reality of marriage. "Happily ever after" is contrasted with "diapers...arguing...getting a middle-aged spread." The Freudian power of mother is accented in the poet's take on "Hansel and Gretel"; Sexton brings out dark implications of child murder and pedophilia that the original tale merely glosses.
Twenty years before Robert Bly tackled the "Iron John" fairy tale, Sexton put her spin on it, stressing the main character's cannibalism and outcast status. She compares the hairy wild man to a string of deeply troubled characters from her imagination. It is here where her poetry reaches the peak of its intensity: "A lunatic wearing that strait jacket/ like a sleeveless sweater, singing to the wall like Muzak...Read more ›
Fairytales have a power few of us realize. The stories shape many of our fantasies as children; they also condition us to accept traditional gender roles as we grow up. I believe that Anne Sexton understood their power and influence. She brilliantly tapped into that power and transformed the tales in a way that forces the reader to look at them with fresh eyes. Before launching into the tales themselves, Sexton set the themes of the stories in a modern or personal context. These connections, along with the interlacing of 20th century details (like soda pop and jockstraps) and her use of modern syntax in the fairy tales made their subversive commentary on the burdens and fears of women in a society shaped by male dominance startlingly clear.
In her transformed tales, Sexton examines the female archetypes they depict: the docile virgin, the wicked stepmother, the aging witch. She also sheds an illuminating, feminist light on the themes of female competition and the idea of happily ever after which pop up often in fairytales.Read more ›
Of course, these poems are simply an extension of Anne Sexton's already established confessional form, but poetry is, first and foremost, an expression of society. These poems fail to remain part of Sexton's inner turmoil. Rather, they mock society and the roles that women are traditionally placed within fairy tales. Anne Sexton, in an example here, uses anachronisms to reach her audience, making references to popular culture.
The Queen Cried two pails of sea water. She was as persistent as a Jehovah's Witness.
Anne Sexton, "Rumpelstiltskin"
Although Sexton's poems are not suitable for an audience of children, they do serve as interesting, even necessary reading, once a child has matured and read beyond the traditional fairy tales that are `suitable' for kids.
Perhaps exactly because she possessed those necessary qualities, she was well aware that it takes more than just the beautiful aspects of life, to create poetry that touches forgotten strings in our hearts. Strings that each on their own may produce sounds we would rather close our ears to, but used in the inspired and ingenious way as she does, and as a compilation, sound off with a flare, expressing the opus of Anne's life and resonating within our own hearts and lives. Great poetry turns on "lights" in our minds and awakens dormant feelings in our hearts.
Anne artfully proves that the ugly and the frightful, the ridiculous and the humorous, and not just the beautiful, all find their perfect place in poetry. The creativity and wit of her poems, like facets of a gem, reflect life's elements of joy and anguish, and clearly demonstrate that soul's journey inevitably passes through the muck of life, yet, in the end, and deep in its core, it remains unchanged, in its purity and reflection of the Devine.
In two words:
Great poetry! Anne Sexton, you ARE loved!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful book by a wonderful woman. Interesting reimaginations of fairy tales in poetry form. Creepy and cool.Published 1 month ago by Mary Caroline Howden
For this lover of fairy tales, these are a delightfully individuated take on them with humor added for a modern flairPublished 3 months ago by pam rose
A very good book and a fantastic look at the Grimm's Brothers tales! Would not necessarily recommend it to children as there are sexual tones within such as dealing with the... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Allison Stanley
I was fascinated by Sexton's reframing of fairy tales in poetic form. They are psychologically powerful and stay with the reader long after they have been read, They also demand... Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by Susan Clancy
I love this book. Ann Sexton's version of Grimm's Tales is somewhat sick and twisted but it's wonderful. The person that owned this book before me made wonderful notes. Read morePublished on March 16, 2009 by T. S. Wells