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4.20  ·  Rating details ·  5,432 ratings  ·  269 reviews
The fairy tale-based works of the tortured confessional poet, whose raw honesty and wit in the face of psychological pain have touched thousands of readers.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published February 15th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published 1971)
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Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jr Bacdayan
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, myth-folklore

“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
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Clara Biesel
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fairy tale poetry which is scary, sexy, funny, and astonishing.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
at fifty-six do you remember?
Do you remember when you were read to as a child?
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?

Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The illustrations are beautiful in this edition and I loved Rapunzel, The Frog Prince and Briar Rose.
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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."
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it

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".
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jack Wolf
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Very sad in its entirety, Sexton was and is a very emotional poet, unfortunately her knack for writing good poetry was fuelled by sadness of her life. She is in every essence similar to Sylvia Plath, but also like Plath she killed herself. It is within the lines of their poetry where the reader gets the idea of how much we should actually strive to live life to its fullest otherwise we may stare into the face of death before our time is really over.

There has been an odious suggestion about Sylvi
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: of-poems
The affectless narration of fairy tales censors the brutality that reinforces the morals they convey to condition children listeners. But what if fairy tales were retold to adults? Anne Sexton here makes a dark but not too dark rendering of fairy tales that does justice to their brutality. Each story begins with a few stanzas of abstract emotional context which I think I liked these more than the stories themselves, for they powerfully put the story in a mature emotional space.

Take Rapunzel, whi
Rachel Skye
3.5 ----- UGHHHH

Another really wonderful collection that I was so excited to dive in. I have to say I set this collection pretty high up on my expectation bar, and I feel like it fell a little short *sorry don't haaaaate*

I thought it was really wonderful - as fairy tales are my jam and I have put a lot of time and energy and effort into them - and I really liked how she stayed pretty true to the tails but at time I felt it was so closely related I didn't feel like it was as inventive as I was ex
Michael A.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Re-tellings of famous fairy tales - I can't say for sure but I think at least some are disguised as confessional. The poems are often sarcastic and her wit is acerbic, and sometimes it can get quite dark. I liked the retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty the most. There are references in here that make me think it is autobiographical in some way (a reference to Thorazine for instance).
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Now the runaways would run no more and ever
again would their hair be tangled into diamonds,
never again their shoes worn down to a laugh,
never the bed falling down into purgatory
to let them climb in after
with their Lucifer kicking.


Personally didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed other fairytale-based poetry collections, but the language is beautiful and the anachronistic messages are haunting and insightful.
Paige Pagnotta
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018
"And I. I too.
Quite collected at cocktail parties,
meanwhile in my head
I'm undergoing open-heart surgery.
The heart, poor fellow,
pounding on his little tin drum
with a faint death beat."

-Red Riding Hood
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
"And I. I too.
Quite collected at cocktail parties,
meanwhile in my head
I'm undergoing open-heart surgery."
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel that I could re-read this one many more times and find something new to admire or puzzle over each time around. A delicious book!
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Love her poetry, but not a great fan of this one. On this first reading, these re-told fairy tales (of sorts) just didn't do it for me.
Malak Alrashed
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I got to know to Anne Sexton as a poet that's influenced by Slyvia Plath, whom I worship. Also, since suicide is a major interest of me, Sexton's poetry was something I had to have on my shelves.

I bought Transformation without knowing that it's a collection of Fairy Tales-Based poems. Fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other Brother Grimm's stories. The poems of Anne are magical and innocent and somehow creepy. I love it when a story is told as a poem, it's something I personally d
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The most amazing, beautifully written, heart-touching, book of poetry I have ever read. Just spectacular.
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
My god, that was grim. Wouldn't have thought the fairy tales could get even more disturbing than their original versions, but they have.
Kent Winward
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Poetic versions of the violent fairy tales, prefaced and bracketed by the violence of real life.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How have I spent so much time not reading Anne Sexton's poems? These are playful and smart and I gobbled them up like that. They make adult the stuff of childhood (and vice versa?). It didn't matter that I did not know so well some of the tales she riffs on; their weird truths emerge.

Read mostly at my picnic table in Zion National Park.
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Into the Forest: Daily Deal: Transformations by Anne Sexton 4 17 Apr 29, 2018 05:40AM  
  • The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales
  • The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)
  • The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy
  • Diving Into the Wreck
  • The Wild Iris
  • Beginning with O
  • Fire to Fire
  • Anne Sexton: A Biography
  • What the Living Do: Poems
  • The City in Which I Love You
  • The Country Between Us
  • Interior with Sudden Joy: Poems
  • Mother Love
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • Crossing the Water
  • Ghost Girl
  • Geography III
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
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
“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…