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Transformations by Anne Sexton

Transformations (1971)

by Anne Sexton

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When I was small I spent many afternoons buried in my big book of Grimm's fairy tales. These poems recalled those days, except filtered through a lens of black-light posters on the walls and Jefferson Airplane spinning on the turntable. I imagined Anne Sexton situated in this tableau, reading these tales aloud, wreathed in smoke from the incense cone burning nearby. This copy also came from the library and smelled strongly of grandmother perfume, resulting in a bizarre juxtaposition of sensual stimuli. The scent overwhelmed and distracted, even as the words dissolved like bits of paper on my tongue. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
Anne Sexton retells seventeen Grimm fair tales. Essentially, each story is the same, except they are not. Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and wakes up 100 years later with a Prince's kiss. Red meets a wolf who cross dresses in her Grandmother's cloths and then gobbles her up, only to be released later by a passing hunter. And so on.

What makes each retelling unique to Sexton are two things. First, each poem/tale is first introduced with a kind of preface, the author's poetic commentary that introduces the tale she's about to retell. Secondly, she uses modern flare to the metaphor used to describe and detail the tales. The thirteenth witch in "Birar Rose" (Sleeping Beauty) has "eyes burnt by cigarettes" and her "uterus is an empty tea cup". Snow White has "china-blue doll eyes" and Cinderella "walked around looking like Al Jolson."

The lines are simple and clean, plain lines, like the original tales she's retelling, but reading them you find there's something more, as though you've just spotted something out of the corner of your eye while walking in the woods. It's wonderful, and I want to keep it always, so that I can come back to it again and again. ( )
1 vote andreablythe | Apr 16, 2010 |
In this collection of poetry, Anne Sexton retells seventeen Grimm fairy tales.

I adore fairy tale revisions. I gobble it up as fast as I can. I especially love revisions that are darker and more sensual than the original tales (although that’s hard to do; the original Grimm stories were pretty bleak stuff). Anne Sexton’s poems certainly fit that bill.

She has a pattern. She usually starts each poem with a prologue about general life which then segues into the actual tale. Thus, in each poem, there are actually two stories: the frame and the tale-within-a-tale. It’s a clever use of meta narrative and works really well with the collection’s theme of fairy tales.

Sexton’s language is tricky, sharp, and utterly memorable. She has such perfect metaphors that each one of them is a little masterpiece in and of itself. Her fairy tales are both a homage to the original Grimm versions but with a mixture of the modern and the personal. They bite, and that’s a good thing.

Also worth mentioning is Kurt Vonnegut’s fantastic preface. He explains poetry better than I can. ( )
1 vote veevoxvoom | Oct 11, 2008 |
The winner of the Pulizter Prize for poetry, this short collection contains 17 poems based on tales from The Brothers Grimm collection. It includes classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Rumplestiltskin, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty). Each poem is prefaced with a short, almost seperatepoem, that looks at the tale in a more modern setting. The main body of the poem is her actual re-telling of the tale.

Dark overtones to most of the poems, they are dry and witty with insightful comments from Sexton along the way. They are a very intimate look inside the mind of the author with much of her personal thoughts exposed on various subjects along the way. I don't read much poetry generally but this made me want to pick up more and in paritcular some Slyvia Plath who has a similar background and personal history.

My favourite was Little Red Riding Hood which has a section on moder decievers that made me think. It's quite sad reading the poems however knowing that she killed herself 3 years after this collection was first published. There are lots of references to therapy, depression, ECT (electro convulsive therapy) and medication which strike the reader all the more for knowing what happens next. Overall a beautiful, dark collection of fairy tale inspired poems all lovers of poetry and fairy tales will enjoy. ( )
1 vote Rhinoa | Jun 15, 2008 |
poems: The Gold Key / Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs / The White Snake / Rumpelstiltskin / The Little Peasant / Godfather Death / Rapunzel / Iron Hans / Cinderella / One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes / The Wonderful Musician / Red Riding Hood / The Maiden Without Hands / The Twelve Dancing Princesses / The Frog Prince / Hansel and Gretel / Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)

This collection contains Sexton's poetic reworkings of several unexpurgated Grimms' fairy tales. Allusions to 20th-Century life and culture, which might normally be jarring in the context of a fairy-tale retelling, actually work to show the timelessness of certain folkloric sensibilities. The poems tend toward the psychologically dark and sexual; Swan's illustrations, too, are very...vulviform. Before reading this book, my exposure to Sexton was pretty limited; I thought it made sense to start with subject matter that appeals to me (i.e., fairy tales). ( )
  extrajoker | May 21, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 061808343X, Paperback)

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).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:26 -0400)

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