Prompt 226 Text, subtext & hypertext


Hi poets,

I watched the featurette of the movie, Into the Woods, earlier today. It inspired this prompt.

Your challenge is to retell a fairy tale in a poem. You could do it in a straight fashion, sticking to the facts of the story, but then try to employ humor, satire, interesting characterization and a moral.

Our inspiration for these inventive retellings are the following source poems from Anne Sexton’s Transformations (2001). She retold 17 Grimms fairy tales, including “Snow White,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Red Riding Hood.”

How do you differentiate your story from the standard text? Let’s take them one by one as example.

1) You could try writing a coda:


Her poem tells the coda of the Cinderella story like this:

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
That story.

2) You could totally redefine a character on your own terms.


Here’s what she said of Rumpelstiltskin when the queen uttered his name and he failed to claim her firstborn.

He laid his two sides down on the floor,
one part soft as a woman,
one part a barbed hook,
one part papa,
one part Doppelganger.

The dwarf as her doppelganger…hmmm.

3) You could satirize a central character.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Like what Anne Sexton did to Snow White:

Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.

4) Your poem could be an allegory.

Red Riding Hood

The allegorical tone is revealed by Sexton’s lines:

Killed by his own weight.
Many a deception ends on such a note.

In a story about propriety, what does Little Red’s rebirth mean? She and grandmother helped stuff stones into the wolf’s belly. What sort of moral weight does this action hold?

The poem’s ending makes my hair stand.

Those two remembering
nothing naked and brutal
from that little death,
that little birth,
from their going down
and their lifting up.

5) You could do the hypertext thing with a theme.

Into the Woods is a criss cross of fairy tales and thus a hypertextual story. It’s an interesting interweaving of stories with a theme: Be careful what you wish for.

I hope you have fun with fairytales. The stuff of fantasy. Once again, you’re required to step into the woods. Eat your heart out. Again.


We Wordle 31

Wordle 31

“The past translates into the future, but in an unrecognizable dialect: all the vowels are changed.”
– Rosanna Warren, “Odyssey”

Greetings! I’ve been away for a while and Irene asked me to host a Wordle prompt this week. MFA studies are going well and although I’m thoroughly busy, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself learning and crafting new poems.

First of all: here are eleven words, selected from poems written to last week’s “Still Life With Oysters/Abalones“:

grit – Debi Swim (poem 1)
spirit – Debi Swim (poem 2)
dying – JulesPaige
parasites – kaykuala h
void – Misky
raw – Hannah Gosselin
legerdemain – Barbara
Bodhisattva – Irene (poem 1)
reflected – Purple in Portland
pulsing – Irene (poem 2)
dusk – Bastet

That was the simple part. Now for the (slightly) harder part. First I’ll give you a phrase. Meditate on it, incorporate it somehow in your poem. It doesn’t have to be straight-on and literal: feel free to weave it or its idea into your poem in some way. Now, the phrase:

“Every song must end.”*

Secondly, here’s an added trick. I’m going to ask you to play with time in your poem. I’m inspired by this concept as we’re currently studying Ghost in a Red Hat by Rosanna Warren in my ENG 631 class.

Warren has a wonderful sense of time. In some poems, she roots the reader firmly within a present moment. In others, she plays around with time, not only through (sometimes unexpected) use of verb tenses but by sliding around to different time periods within the same poem. In particular, one of my favorite effects she uses is writing about past moments in present tense — which make the past moment seem more tangible, immediate, and real. For example, in “For D.” from Ghost in a Red Hat, she begins the poem whilst riding on a plane:

“The plane whips down through rainclouds, streaks
of creamy light through cumulus, and, below,
a ruffled scattering, a mattress’s innards ripped —“

But then Warren begins to play a little trick with time. Take a look at the next two stanzas:

friendship is always travel. How to measure
the distance eye to eye, or hand to hand—as our hands age—
or shoulder to shoulder as we stand at the sink

washing grit from beet greens, our palms magenta,
our voices low, steady, exchanging
gossip and palaver

Notice what begins to happen in the bold text in the second and third stanzas. She slips back to the past, but describes it in present tense.  So in a similar way, try to write about a past moment using present tense verbs. You can stay completely in the past moment, or (if you want to get really timey-wimey) slide from present to past and back again, start in the past and move out of your moment forward in time, or….or….you get the idea.


(*The phrase is a Doctor Who reference. Do you know from where? Spoilers…)

Prompt 225 Still life with oysters (part one) and abalones (part two)

Anyoung haseyo!

That’s a Korean greeting, meaning “Are you at peace?” And done with a slight bow. I just thought I’d like to emulate Misky’s “Top of the morning” greeting last week. So Brit, I thought. 🙂

Well, my prompt is inspired by Mark Doty’s excellent book, which was inspired by Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Still Life With A Glass And Oysters, in which he contemplates art and poetry in relation to objects. Why still life? I guess the painterly eye is a way of seeing. Still life embodies a way of seeing objects that is intimate, that is infused with the subject who sees. In its way poetry does that too.

Doty writes: ““As advocates of intimacy, as embodiments of paradox, as witnesses to earth, here, this moment, now. Evidence, thus, that tenderness and style are still the best gestures we can make in the face of death.” The world is filled with objects, isn’t it? The objects lend utility and grace to our lives, don’t they? They’re infused with memory and desire. With story. They’re also gloriously self-referential. An apple is an apple. A tiger is a tiger. An oyster is, erm, an oyster.

If they’re anything else, then it’s the subject who interprets. Right?

In that sense, a painting of oysters is more literal because it is immediate. The visual experience is non-verbal, very visceral. It is a primary representation. A poem about oysters would be what? … secondary representation. Both are art and therefore mimetic experiences. And all art is a meditation.

So this week I want you to write about those things. What, you ask? Well, I’ll leave it up to you, whether you want to do comparative studies, or focus on one of these things.


Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life With A Glass And Oysters


Jose Fernando, Still Life With Oysters, Lemon and Belgian Beer


The third image is a photograph taken in Seoul by myself.

That’s Part 1 of the prompt. I thought I’d like to give further food for thought. So this:


Abalones is Part 2. Now that you’ve had practice thinking about art, poetry and oysters, I thought you might want to give abalones a go. Yes? No?

Well, whatever you come up with should be fine. If you’ve been tuning in to our prompts, and not writing, do try and write this week. I hate to sound the death knell but you know, this prompty thing too is a finite thing. A thing of memory and desire. So write. Think about relations between things. Seize the pen.

We Wordle 30


We Wordle Prompt 30

Top of the morning to you all! I’m back with another wordle, words squeezed out of Irene’s prompt 224 “Reprise”. We have eight words to play with (Oh! “PLAY” – there’s that word again! Do remember to submit your poems that fit the theme ‘Play’ for Red Wolf Journal’s Winter Issue 4. Submissions are open until mid-December.) .

Here are the eight words:

 candle, wine, silver, shallow, letter, demands, fireplace, slack

 And we have TWO twists this week:

Take these five extra words that rhyme, and include them in any way you wish in your poem. Use them for internal rhymes or end-line rhymes.

 elaborate, tolerate, perforate, incinerate, exasperate

 Write your poem in the Present Simple Tense. Here’s a link for a definition and a game to play, if you wish.

 I very much look forward to reading your creative pieces. Please post your poem to your blog, and then return here and post the URL address/link in the comments fields below so we can ALL pop by for a read and leave a comment.

Have fun. See you soon!