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Verwandlungen [Transformations]

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  4,527 Ratings  ·  204 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jr Bacdayan
A collection of the mundane deconstructed to resemble the Grimm more than the silly and retold in verses oddly anachronistic yet alluring. What Sexton transforms is more magical than the droll tales of our childhood.
Kinga
Apr 05, 2012 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
‘Transformations’
...more
Teresa
Mar 18, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Natalie
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
...more
Kathy
Jan 29, 2017 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: forest_2017
Some of the references can be dated for younger readers, the language is beautiful and at times disturbing. I can feel some of her suicidal tendencies in her poetry. A troubled soul with some wonderful insights into people.
Mikki
Jan 28, 2010 Mikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

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
...more
Matthew
Dec 28, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The Gold Key


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 have come to remind you,
all of you:
Alice, Samuel, Kurt, Eleanor,
Jane, Brian, Maryel,
all of you draw near.
Alice,
at fifty-six do you remember?
Do you remember when you were read to as a child?
Samuel,
at twenty-two have you forgotten?
Forgotten the ten P.M. dreams
where the wicked king
went up in smoke?
Are you comatose?
Are you undersea?

Attent
...more
averybiird
Apr 04, 2014 averybiird rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, myth-folklore

“He turns the key.
Presto!
It opens this book of odd tales.
Which transform The Brothers Grimm.
Transform?
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
...more
Karsten
Feb 08, 2012 Karsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Melanti
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
...more
Elizabeth
Oct 16, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible!

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
...more
Sylvain
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."
Giedre
May 15, 2015 Giedre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5

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".
Belinda
May 12, 2014 Belinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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.
Jean
Jul 09, 2014 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sabra Embury
Jan 05, 2011 Sabra Embury rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Alarie
Aug 22, 2016 Alarie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
One of my favorite quotes from this book comes from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in the Foreword: “How do I explain these poems? Not at all. I quit teaching in colleges because it seemed so criminal to explain works of art.” I also enjoyed these poems by Sexton, just not as much as I hoped. I love dark humor, feminism, and quirkiness in poems. She manages all that nicely, but I can never shake the feeling that I’m feeling her tortured soul every step of the way.

Sexton blends modern insight, pop culture, s
...more
katemfs
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,
...more
Ch_jank-caporale
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
...more
Sarah
Aug 11, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
"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.
...more
Andrea Beltran
Oct 05, 2011 Andrea Beltran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Victoria
Sep 13, 2010 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fairytale
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.
Kristieanna
Jan 17, 2012 Kristieanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.




Miriam
Mar 10, 2010 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, mythology
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."
Megan
Dec 02, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perfect re-entry into poetry.
virgodura
Jul 19, 2011 virgodura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2011, american-lit
i don't know that i loved her style in this, but i enjoyed reading these adaptations. sleeping beauty in particular.
Joe
Oct 14, 2013 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
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.
Zara Stubbs
Jun 15, 2016 Zara Stubbs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely incredible. My favourite anthology alongside Plath's Ariel.
Amy
Jun 11, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That last poem, jesus.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Poems based on Grimm fairy tales. Pair it with Gwen Strauss' Trail of Stones.
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  • Diving Into the Wreck
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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
More about Anne Sexton...

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