good english

to read makes our speaking English good.
Transformations - Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Sexton, Barbara Swan
The speaker in this case
is a middle-aged witch, me --
tangled on my two great arms,
my face in a book
and my mouth wide,
ready to tell you a story or two.

I expected to LOVE Transformations, an all caps, shouty kind of love, but instead I liked it, lowercase, normal conversational tones. I'm not sure why I didn't connect with Sexton's poems, especially since I love the way she plays with words and metaphor, mixes the dusty language of fairy tales with taxi girls and Thorazine.

Transformations is a collection of poems, retellings of fairy tales -- the Grimm versions, pretty dark even without help. Sexton pulls out the creepiest undertones of the stories and puts them on full display. Before each retelling there's an introduction, putting a modern spin on the old stories. Most of the retellings are straightforward enough, but often Sexton's turns of phrase would make me see some element of the tale in a new light, and even when they didn't, I'd enjoy the words she chose to put her poem together, even if I didn't totally click with the collection as a whole.

I found a few of the poems in the collection to go past dark into downright disturbing. I'm sure that was Sexton's intention, but I would be happy never to read "Rapunzel" again.


(three-and-a-half stars)

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