Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Modern Wolves, Modern Poets

For those of you who love fairy tales, don't miss this episode of On Being.  The broadcast has a great section on the way that modern television shows are using fairy tales, as well as great conversation about the lasting appeal of fairy tales, and the way they are re-imagined at different points in history.  There's also some valuable discussion about the violence in fairy tales and the violence in other kinds of work for children, like The Hunger Games.

I've often found that when I'm feeling like I have nothing more to write about, that I'll never write a poem again, returning to fairy tales helps.  I love looking at a fairy tale through the eyes of a different character.  How does Cinderella's prince feel?  What does happily ever after mean for him.

I love thinking about what happens years later, after the apparent end of the fairy tale.  How do Hansel and Gretel relate to each other as adults?  That mermaid who turns into a human who turns into sea foam--does the sea foam have a story?

But my favorite way of using fairy tales is to see the modern corollary.  Here's one of my favorites in that vein, written years ago as the housing market was melting down.  It appears in my second chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents:

Big Bad Wolves

In the end, modern
life surprises the wolf.

Clever schools have banned
wolves with a past
from getting a job near children.
But the modern wolf knows what to do.
This wolf takes a job as a party d.j.,
that wolf works at Starbucks,
while other wolves find themselves still welcome
in places where modern life has robbed
institutions of people with spare
time to volunteer.

Long ago, Peter's wolf found trouble
because he was hungry
and took risks.
Today's wolves find themselves packing
on pounds because food is abundant
and cheap.

Today's wolf finds that people happily
sign papers for a loan
of more money than they can hope
to repay. They agree
to pay higher interest rates and submit
to future rate adjustments.
The wolf files
the paperwork. No huffing
or puffing needed.

The Internet provides a much more believable
costume than granny clothes.
The wolf invents a whole new identity.
On the Internet, no one can see
the lascivious leer, the drool
dripping from fangs.

Occasionally, the wolf misses
the thrill of the hunt. He hears
his ancestors sneering at his life
of modern comfort.
The wolf finds himself a bit bored
with some existential unease.
He turns to nineteenth-century novels,
those big baggy monsters,
and once again, attempts
to read Bleak House.

1 comment:

Jeannine said...

Fairy tales are a wonderful way to be inspired, especially ones I haven't read before or new annotations on old tales. Have you read Jack Zipes new fairy tale criticism book? It's inspired two poems for me so far!
Plus my new book Unexplained Fevers is all fairy tales all the time :) Then the next book will be all radioactive.