Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann (once more)

All right, I have one more poem by Heppermann I want to share with you this year. Previously appearing on this blog were some of her poems about sexism and the beauty myth. Today, we’re looking at a feminist reimagining of a fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin.”

And I have a question for you at the end. I’m fascinated by what your answers might be. Please leave your response in the comments.

***

Retelling

 

What the miller’s daughter should have said
from the start
or at any point down the line is,
no.
No, you can’t drag me to the king.
No, I can’t spin that room full of straw into gold.
No, not that room, either.
Or that one.
Quit asking.

No, I won’t give you my necklace.
No, I won’t give you my ring.
No, I can’t give you the child;
the child will never exist.
End of story.

Once upon a time
there was a miller’s daughter
who got a studio apartment,
took classes during the day,
waited tables at night,
and when customers asked
what’s in the gravy
on the rump roast sandwich,
it’s the best thing they’ve ever
tasted, she winked and said,
Guess.

***

So I’m curious: what do you think is in the gravy?

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

 

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Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann (again)

Yesterday I posted a poem by Christine Heppermann about the evolution of the dominance problem inherent in the inequity between men and women.

Today I’m posting one by her about the tragedy of the beauty myth, about how people can become conditioned — brain-washed — to pick themselves apart. Is there any more insidious oppression than the constant pursuit of perfection? What a curse to never be able to see one’s own value.

***

The Wicked Queen’s Legacy

 

It used to be just the one,
but now all mirrors chatter.

In fact, every reflective surface has opinions
on the shape of my nose, the size

of my chest, the hair I wash and brush
until it’s so shiny I can see myself

scribbling notes as each strand
recommends improvements.

I make sure to write them all down
when all I really want is to stop

at the market and flirt with the butcher,
ignoring his critical knives,

haggling, for once, over the cost of
some other poor creature’s thighs.

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann

When the Poem-A-Day series meets Women Writers Wednesday series meets Whom I’m Reading series…

My friend Sarah gave me a book of poems for Christmas called Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. I love this book. The first time I read it, I did so all in one sitting.

Heppermann has written a collection of smart poems that investigate the intersection between fairy tales and gender roles, and that also explore the toxicity of the anti-feminist culture which is the fruit of those loins. E. Lockhart’s blurb on the front cover calls Poisoned Apples “[a] bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.” I don’t think I could have described it better myself.

Paired with these sharply witty poems are black-and-white photographs, by a variety of artists, which communicate the ideas of the poems without being too on-the-nose, and which are standalone pieces of art in and of themselves. I highly recommend this book.

***

A Brief History of Feminism

 

Simon says touch your toes.
Simon says turn around.
Simon says touch your toes again.
Now wiggle a little.
Simon says he is not a pervert.
Simon says hop on one foot.
Simon didn’t say stop hopping!
Hop closer.
Simon says hop closer.
Simon says is that a push-up bra?
Geez, honey, calm down.

Simon says calm down.
On second thought,
Simon says you’re pretty cute
when you’re all worked up like that.
Wanna hop your sweet self into my office
and see my sofa bed?
Simon says, we were just playing, Officer.
Simon, anything you say
can be used against you in a court of law.

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

National Poetry Month — Day 9

Sometimes when you write a poem, you work and work and work on that first draft and realize pretty far in that you’re just spinning your wheels. The spin is important, though. Terrible first drafts matter, and it’s good to embrace them so they — or the fear of them — don’t paralyze you.

One of my poetry professors in college assigned us to write fairy tale poems. I chose “The Frog Prince, or Iron Heinrich” because that story was one of my favorites when I was a child — no doubt in part because I had the recording of The Muppets version, where Kermit narrated, Robin was the prince, Sweetums was the ogre, and the princess was a young lady named Mellora. (Incidentally, I loved her name so much that I used it as the name of the protagonist in my first novel, although she and my character bear almost no resemblance to each other in any other way.)

My professor had given us a week to write these fairy tale poems. I threw everything I had at it for five days and ended up with what was arguably a funny prose-poem splashed across five pages. It was long. Very little white space. The night before the poem was due, I had to come to grips with the fact that the draft was terrible. I threw it all away and wrote this instead.

 

***

 

Plan B

 

Golden ball like a prophet,
predict for the princess her fate:
a frog lapping wine from her cup,
digesting the food from her plate,
his eager tongue tickling her belly,
his sticky feet crawling along her…
in the morning a man in her bed,
a quick arranged marriage by Father.
Golden ball, keep your playmate:
warn her not to whine for help,
but her freedom to keep a bit longer
and to fetch you for herself.

 

 

.

 

 

 

Witches #4

This morning I heard a really fascinating report on the place of women in folklore and fairy tales, and of course it revolved around the theme of the witch. I may write more on this subject later, when I’m not trying to be the superwoman of the to-do list, but for now, I want to share this brief article with you and know your thoughts on the matter.

Consider this the most benevolent and festive homework you’ll get this week. Please click on the link above, then read, and then discuss in the comments. I really do want to know what you think!

Special Guest Post from SJ Over at Snobbery!

A while back, SJ over at Snobbery won a contest here on Sappho’s Torque, and  her reward was to have a guest blogger spot.  This week we’re featuring her post, a book review of a novel my rising-9th-grade niece is currently enjoying.  I hope you enjoy her review!  Be sure to check SJ out on her blog and on Twitter and on Facebook.  Super delightful stuff.

And just as a quick reminder, you still have four days left to enter the Chindogu Challenge.

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book cover photo borrowed respectfully from Goodreads

Recently I read Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – I know, I know, just the name is a mouthful, right? – a book I fully expected to love.

Did I love it?

Yes…ish.

Look, I loved the IDEA behind this book, but I felt it was a little lacking in execution.  I was expecting something of a faerie tale version of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always (which I have read and re-read because it succeeds where I think this book fails) – a book for younger readers (if I MUST pin a YA label on it, I will) that parents and adults can enjoy as well.

What I found, though, was a book that read as if it were geared towards adults either attempting to regain that childlike sense of whimsy, or reminisce about those fantastic books they read as children.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot about this book that I think was done right – but I can’t imagine any children I know being particularly interested in it.  I know (for example) that if I handed this book to my almost 13-year-old (who loves faerie stories, btw – he’s my son, after all), he would probably read about 10 pages before handing it back to me and saying, “Nah.  Can I go read some more Barsoom?”  …or A Series of Unfortunate Events, or The Looking Glass Wars, or whatever else it is that he’s into at that point in time.

This is a book that is marketed as being for children, but when I read it, it seemed like it was clearly written for adults.

That bothered me, and is why I have to append the “ish” to my answer of whether I liked it or not.

What did I love?

Well, that’s a lot more fun to talk about!

First of all, there are some absolutely delightful illustrations by Spanish artist Ana Juan, they were a lot of fun to come across, and each one made me smile.

The fantastic characters we meet in Fairyland were wonderfully realized.  I cared about them all, especially the Wyverary.

What’s a Wyverary?  Simple!  It’s a wyvern whose father was a library!

Look! A Wyverary! (image respectfully borrowed from Amazon)

I appreciated the slightly dense/flowery prose, but that’s another reason I think younger readers might have problems with it.  It really read like it was a faerie story I would have enjoyed when I was younger, but it was a little…more, I think.  Like I said – some adults will squeal over it, but children will probably just stare blankly.

Final verdict?  If you’re an adult that still loves faerie tales, this book will probably scratch an itch you didn’t even know you had.  If you’re not…you should probably skip it, as you’ll likely find it a bit too twee.