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Verwandlungen [Transformations]

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  3,812 ratings  ·  174 reviews
The fairy tale-based works of the tortured confessional poet, whose honesty and wit in the face of psychological pain have touched thousands of readers.
Paperback, 196 pages
Published 1999 by Fischer (first published 1971)
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Mar 22, 2014 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Mikki
Sexton takes specific fairy tales, starts each with a modern-day prologue and then tells the tale in her own fashion while being faithful to the plot of the original. Some of the humorous allusions she uses are now dated, such as describing Rumpelstiltskin's body as not being Sanforized; but as a whole, each poem extends the universal truth of the Grimm tale, as with Cinderella's prince's "marriage [meat] market."

I've probably read a Sexton poem here or there, but this was my first extended read
Poetry is like wine to me. I enjoy it occasionally but I don’t have enough knowledge or experience to write elaborate tasting notes.

Like wine, I enjoy poetry on a more intangible level, the only difference is that of course, I am not more likely to go to bed with you if we end up reading poetry for the whole evening.
Therefore, I won’t write a proper review of Anne Sexton’s Transformations. But even Kurt Vonnegut Jr didn’t write anything sensible in his foreword to this edition.
An essential part of my early-life feminist awakening. Observe Cinderella as viewed by Anne Sexton:

You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.

Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son's heart.
from diapers to Dior.
That story.

Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogeni

Anne Sexton puts her spin on seventeen of the classic Grimm Fairy Tales -- simultaneously funny, twisted and dark. Each of her stories opens with a poem that introduces the tale with a comparison to modern culture.

For example, for Cinderella she writes:

You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.

Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son's heart.
from diapers to Dior.
That s

You haven't read THESE fairy tales unless you've read 'Transformations'

I FIRST read this for a graduate school seminar: Confessional Women Poets. I've returned to it countless times and still have my copy that I purchased in 1982. So many notes and highlighted parts to taste and savor again and again. It's fascinating to be reading these stories now at age fifty one and seeing how I felt and what I thought when I was nineteen. Takes me back to countless life experiences - the fabulo
I like the sense of humour of people who commit suicide:
"As for Hansel and Gretel,
they escaped and went home to their father.
Their mother,
you'll be glad to hear, was dead."
The book is 16 of the Grimm brothers folktales, retold, and an intro poem declaring that we are all a boy who, "upon finding a nickel / he would look for a wallet. This boy! Upon finding a string / he would look for a harp." And, the poem goes on, he/we have found a gold key that will open this book, where Grimm's tales are transformed.

And upon finding the tales, we look for a...?

Sexton recognizes what is ridiculous in these old tales and drily teases it a little in every poem. The dwarves who
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne Sexton's dark, twisted and fun poetic retellings of Grimm fairytales. While reading these poems I was very much reminded of Angela Carter. I'm not trying to compare Sexton and Carter, but there you go. Highlights: "Hansel and Gretel", "Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)", "Rapunzel", "Cinderella", "Red Riding Hood", "Godfather Death", "The Little Peasant".
I think I've heard Anne Sexton mentioned in the same breath as Angela Carter so often that I was expecting something more along the lines of Carter's twisted retellings that have Little Red Riding Hood seducing the wolf, or Beauty turning into a lion in order to stay with the Beast.

But instead, what Sexton delivers is mostly straight-forward retellings that are surprisingly "by the book" other than a bit of change to modernize the settings. There were a few - especially towards the end of the v
“He turns the key.
It opens this book of odd tales.
Which transform The Brothers Grimm.
As if an enlarged paper clip
Could be a piece of sculpture.
(And it could.)”

-from The Gold Key

I am reading Transformations as part of The Complete Poems, but feel it should be discussed separately as it differs from this poet's usual style of confessional poetry. Although that is not quite true, as each of these fairy tale retellings does have a few stanzas of introduction that are modern reflect
In the throes of my renewed passion for all things fairy tale this summer, I decided to pick up my favorite book of poetry, Anne Sexton's (or Mother Sexton, to evoke the persona she takes on here) collection of Grimm stories, told with her usual biting wit, and her cynical eye for female behavior and gender roles. While "Cinderella" is perhaps the poem that gets reproduced the most in collections:

"Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market."

Mainly, I think, because of its commo
Sabra Embury
The sharp-witted poems collected in this volume are reenactments of seventeen Grimm Fairy Tales, some more memorable from childhood (Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin) than others (the White Snake, Godfather Death). Some receive better tangents than others, too, and blessed be those, which are my favorites, especially "Red Riding Hood" and "the Twelve Dancing Princesses." Here's a taste:

If you danced from midnight
to six A.M. who would understand?

The runaway boy
who chucks it all
to live on the Boston Co
Transformations is a collection of poetic re-interpretations of the traditional fairy tales by Anne Sexton. They are probably not appropriate for children unless in high school. Caution should be made regarding some of the sexual content, not to mention the violence already included in many versions of the traditional tales.

Fairy tales are a method to transmit the values of a culture. In Transformations, Sexton questions some of the values they teach girls, and in doing so rebels against traditi
So I'm not especially familiar with Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and that became glaringly obvious a few nights ago.

"Hey guys," I started, slightly inebriated. "I'm reading this book of poems--"

"Anne Sexton?" Moira asked, as the cover came within her view. "You're reading Anne Sexton?"

"Yes- so, these poems are, like, a retelling or reinterpretation or re- something of fairy tales."

At this point, Adam is making noises at his dog, and Moira is rolling her eyes about my latest literary endeavor. I,
Just stunning. Intro by Kurt Vonnegut-charming--weird--first poetry inspired by the fairy tale--then poetic re-telling of the fairy tale. sharp, funny, melancholy, a little shocking--a complete experience. I am so ready to start this from page one and do it again. I can't wait to read even more.
"Once there was a witch's garden
more beautiful than Eve's
with carrots growing like little fish,
with many tomatoes rich as frogs,
onions as ingrown as hearts,
the squash singing like a dolphin
and one patch given over wholly to magic--
rampion, a kind of salad root,
a kind of harebell more potent than penicillin,
growing leaf by leaf, skin by skin,
as rapt and as fluid as Isadora Duncan."

Here, indeed, is the witch's garden, though what kind of witch and what kind of garden is up to the reader to decide.
Andrea Beltran
I read this collection in college and now realize I never fully appreciated it. I chose to revisit it with improved eyes (actually, I think the book called me to revisit it) and I dedicated myself to the dissection of each poem, line by line. I read it twice to be sure I didn't miss anything. Just as Vonnegut writes in his introduction, I could never attempt to explain these poems. I can hardly write a review of Anne Sexton's Transformations that I feel would do it any justice. It is a book to b ...more
A perfect re-entry into poetry.
Anne Sexton makes me want to cut myself.
For some reason, I still read her, obsessively.
"My mouth blooms like a cut", she writes in "The Kiss".
What does this even mean?
Why does this phrase haunt me?

Knowing that she was a housewife tortured by words and imagery,
that she created instead of taking a nap,
that she could fry the eggs and then write
on her palms, of joy....
and that she died in a fur coat,
ringless and on purpose,
makes me tired which ultimately, saves me from cutting.

This book was exactly what I expected, with Sexton's strong power of wording and grappling with fairytales of old. She does indeed "transform" the stories with her modern twists and nuances of language, often giving them meanings I had not yet considered. Overall an intricate but quick, pleasurable read.

Best line:
It is not enough to read Hesse
and drink clam chowder
we must have the answers.
Elizabeth said: Sexton wrote a play entitled Mercy Street, which also led to the Peter Gabriel song of the same title. But, really, if you want a connection, read Sexton's The Frog Prince while listening to Gabriel's Kiss that Frog. Domesticated terror indeed. Also, Shawn Colvin's "Object of My Affection."
How many times have I read and taught this book? Too many, in a sense, and yet it always repays rereading, and it always gives rise to remarkable student writing. One of the key works of our time.
What a great idea. Sexton takes the old Disney fairy tales and researches them back to their dark roots and adds her own subversive suburban view to the morals.
i don't know that i loved her style in this, but i enjoyed reading these adaptations. sleeping beauty in particular.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Poems based on Grimm fairy tales. Pair it with Gwen Strauss' Trail of Stones.
Kane Simmans
This a fantastic book of poetry. It recontextualizes fairy tales in a way that is really refreshing.

Each poem is prefaced by a short, indented section that riffs on the main themes in the fairy tale - or, at least, the themes Sexton has inferred and emphasized. For instance, in "Red Riding Hood," she discusses deception:

"The standup comic
on the 'Tonight' show
who imitates the Vice President
and cracks up Johnny Carson
and delays sleep for millions
of bedfellows watching between their feet,
slits his
Sexton is by far one of the best 1900 poets I have ever read. If you are a fan of Sylvia Plath (COMPLETELY understandable if you are not, if you know what I mean :) than you would love Sexton! They actually lived in the same Boston Suburb in Newton-Wellesley and studied together in university. These poems give a strange perspective, that can be grossome, sick but eye opening. She gives her own twist on the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales, that really make you question what it was like for a woman li ...more
Engl 328
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Having been an avid reader of fairy tales since I was a young girl, I looked forward to reading Anne Sexton's Transformations - a poetic interpretation of Grimms' finest, including Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty.

After reading the collection twice, however, I felt bittersweet and almost ambivalent about the poems. Yes - fairy tales in themselves are fantastical metaphors of our dark and violent subconscious Ego mind playing itself
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Anne Sexton once told a journalist that her fans thought she got better, but actually, she just became a poet. These words are characteristic of a talented poet that received therapy for years, but committed suicide in spite of this. The poetry fed her art, but it also imprisoned her in a way.

Her parents didn’t expect much of her academically, and after completing her schooling at Rogers Hall, sh
More about Anne Sexton...
The Complete Poems Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters Selected Poems Love Poems Live or Die

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“And I. I too.
Quite collected at cocktail parties,
meanwhile in my head
I'm undergoing open-heart surgery.”
“Give me your skin
as sheer as a cobweb,
let me open it up
and listen in and scoop out the dark.”
More quotes…