Angela Carter: What Is a Fairy Tale?

Someone once asked Angela Carter what her idea of a fairy tale was. She responded:

“A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to ask for a cup of sugar.”

The quote appears on the back cover of Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, a personal copy of which self purchased in Edinburgh, almost three years ago.

More to chew on: a link to a Salon.com interview conducted by Laura Miller on the publication of The Turnip Princess and Other Rediscovered Fairy Tales.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Am Reading Today, Last Tuesday of February 2015

blogs

a friend’s novel

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

tweets about the Oscars

Sunflower Splendor: Two Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, Co-edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo

Here’s a poem called “Southern Mountains,” by Han Yu:

So therefore I watched a pool
Whose clear depths concealed water dragons.

Bending I could gather fish and prawns,
But who dares plunder divine beings?

About Han Yu: He was a late T’ang Dynasty poet, and a contemporary of Li Po and Tu Fu. He was born into a literary family of landed gentry in the province of Hunan. He served in several high posts in the government: Vice President of the Ministry of War, Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel, and Metropolitan Governor. He died in Ch’ang-an in 824, at the age of 56.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Fairy Tale in Question This Morning

Fairy tales are brutal. That’s why self loves them.

The Baba Yaga (Russian)

Once upon a time there was an old couple. The husband lost his wife and married again. But he had a daughter by the first marriage, a young girl, and she found no favor in the eyes of her stepmother, who used to beat her, and consider how she could get her killed outright. One day the father went away somewhere or other, so the stepmother said to the girl, “Go to your aunt, my sister, and ask her for a needle and thread to make you a shift.

Now that aunt was a Baba Yaga. Well, this girl was no fool, so she went to a real aunt of hers first, and says she:

“Good morning, Auntie!”

“Good morning, my dear, what have you come for?”

“Mother has sent me to her sister, to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift.”

Then her aunt instructed her what to do.

– from Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, in the section “Witches.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Rapunzel”: in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Edited by Maria Tatar

This fairy tale has always fascinated self because of: the tower; the maiden with the plait of hair; a wife’s insatiable cravings; and a devoted husband who, in attempting to satisfy his wife, brings down ruin upon his family.

In Tatar’s de-construction, the opening sentence — “Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman” — indicates “that the story will center on procreation.” (Always look for the Freudian meanings in fairy tales!)

An excerpt:

As night was falling, he climbed over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily pulled up a handful of rapunzel, and brought it back to his wife. She made a salad out of it right away and devoured it with a ravenous appetite. The rapunzel tasted so good, so very good, that the next day her craving for it increased threefold. The only way the man could settle his wife down was to go back to the garden for more.

As night was falling, he returned, but after he climbed over the wall, he had an awful fright, for there was the enchantress, standing right in front of him.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

This Evening, Tomas Transtromer

When self was with Angela Narciso Torres in Venice Beach in November, Angela took self to A Small World, a fabulous bookstore fronting the beach. Self ended up getting poetry collections by Neruda and Tomas Transtromer.

This evening, self is looking through Transtromer’s collection The Great Enigma (Pretty fabulous, that title!), translated by Robin Fulton.

The back cover has the New York Times quoting Transtromer as saying, “My poems are meeting places.”

Oh. Wow. Self can’t even. Just. Kill her now.

Here’s an excerpt from Transtromer’s Balakirev’s Dream:

 The black grand piano, the gleaming spider
trembled at the center of its net of music.

In the concert hall a land was conjured up
where stones were no heavier than dew.

Love, love, love those images.

Stay tuned.

Marcus Cumberlege: “Sun”

SUN

Pours at daybreak like wet gold
From a trove of its own finding
Under the stones of our hill

The trees are saturated
It spills over all the grass
Flooding towards the cottage

Puts enough light
For the whole of Ireland
Into a green glade

Cities rust in the shade.

* * * *

Discovered a collection by Marcus Cumberlege in the main house of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre when self was doing an artists residency there, last May.

The poem above is from Cumberlege’s second collection, Firelines. She called Stairway Books in Galway and they had one used copy, which they mailed to her.

From the artists bio:

Marcus Cumberlege, born in 1938, has also lived and worked in Peru, France and England. In 1972 he moved to Bruges in Belgium, where he lives with his Flemish wife.

Firelines is his second collection. “These poems were begun in 1970 – 1972 when he lived on the west coast of Ireland.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Pablo Neruda: “Loves, The City” (Amores: La Ciudad)

from Intimismos: Poemas de Amor (Each poem is accompanied by a beautiful painting by Mary Heebner)

Self bought her copy from Small World Books in Venice Beach, last November. The translation is by Alastair Reid. The excerpt below is from the poem “Loves: The City” (Amores: La Ciudad)

I think now that my poetry began (Pienso que se fundo mi poesia)
not in solitude but in a body, (no solo en soledad sino en un cuerpo)
another’s body, in a skin of moonlight, (y en otro cuerpo, a plena piel de luna)
in the abundant kisses of the earth. (y con todos los besos de la tierra.)

*     *     *     *

Here’s a link to another translation of Neruda by Alastair Reid:  Isla Negra.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Another by Mary Ruefle from Her SELECTED POEMS

It is Wednesday. And Wednesday morning poems are the best. More from self’s newest poet discovery, Mary Ruefle:

Replica

You’ve wasted another evening
sitting with imaginary friends,
discussing the simplest possible
arrangement of an iris.
The sky, too, like a delicate dress
streaked with bleach, has been thrown away.
Once you wanted to be someone else
or another thing altogether: an iris in April,
or only its pistil, just that, a prayer so small
it was only rumored. What can it matter?
You know now your own life doesn’t belong to you,
the way a child defects into his childhood
to discover it isn’t his after all.
Still, on this and other evenings,
only another replica of thoughts
has been lost:
your life has its own: intact, far distant,
and unknowingly you have devoted your lives
to each other.

at Izura, toward dawn,
someone walks down toward the sea
astonished you have taken so long.

From the author’s bio on the back cover of Mary Ruefle: Selected Poems

Mary Ruefle has published ten books of poetry, including Cold Pluto and Tristimania. In addition, she’s published The Most of It, a book of prose, and Go Home and Go to Bed!, a comic book.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mary Ruefle: From SELECTED POEMS

The last AWP conference was in Seattle. Self roomed with poet Luisa Igloria. When self is with writers from another genre, she loves to pick their brains. So, one day, Luisa and self happened to be strolling through the Book Fair, when she asked Luisa about her favorite poets, and since we just then happened to be passing a table selling Mary Ruefle, self stopped and purchased a copy of Mary Ruefle: Selected Poems. (Wave Books: Seattle and New York, 2010)

(Oh, did self ever mention to dear blog readers that she brought more poetry collections with her to Mendocino than fiction?)

Anyhoo, today self cracks open Ruefle’s Selected Poems (About time, too: the AWP conference was almost a year ago), and this is the very first poem:

Standing Furthest

All day I have done nothing.
To admonish me a few aspen
jostle beneath puny stars.
I suppose in a rainforest
a draft of hands brought in
the tubers for today, women
scratched their breasts in the sunlight
and smiled: someone somewhere
heard the gossip of exotic birds
and passed it on in the night,
to another, sleeping curled like an ear:
of all things standing furthest
from what is real, stand these trees
shaking with dispensable joy,
or those in their isolation
shading an extraordinary secret.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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