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Transformations

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  3,436 ratings  ·  162 reviews
1st Edition, US
Hardcover
Published (first published 1971)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Teresa
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...more
Kinga
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
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
Mikki

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
Karsten
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
Kim
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth
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
Jean
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
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
averybiird
“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
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
...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
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
Belinda
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.
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
Laura
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
Kristieanna
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.




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...more
Victoria
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.
Miriam
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."
Joe
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.
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."
Jonathan
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.
Linda
i don't know that i loved her style in this, but i enjoyed reading these adaptations. sleeping beauty in particular.
Engl 328
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruby
3.5
Some glorious lines, but on the whole not particularly memorable I think. Therefore three instead of four stars.

Good things:

"It is not enough to read Hesse
and drink clam chowder
we must have the answers."

"In an old time
there was a king as wise as a dictionary."

"But the princess smiled like warm milk
and merely dropped her ring into the sea."

"She offered him all the kingdom
but he wanted only this -
a living thing
to call his own.
And being mortal
who can blame him?"

"He laid his two sides down on th...more
A.M.
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...more
Lisa M.
I have always meant to read some of Anne Sexton's work. She falls into categories I can identify/be identified with: poet, tortured, suicidal, feminist. It was this motive and my love of fairy tales that read me to lead this book.


When revisiting the Grimm fairy tales, something new must be brought to them. They have been told and retold in various fashions, and it is difficult to bring anything new to them. In this work, Sexton took a route many other writers have-- she approached the already...more
Amy
This is a good retelling, a great idea. I love the Grimm stories; I did some huge research paper on them in college and used this collection as a source, too. There are a lot of great references to women as the object.

Anyway, what I want to remember:

and only as she dreamt of the yellow hair
did moonlight sift into her mouth.

There once was a miller
with a daughter as lovely as a grape.

The apply was as smooth as oilskin
and when she took a bite
it was as sweet and crisp as the moon.
Their bodies met ov...more
karen
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 co...more
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26814
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...
The Complete Poems Selected Poems Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters Love Poems All My Pretty Ones

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