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Transformations

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  6,074 ratings  ·  313 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, 112 pages
Published February 15th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published 1971)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,074 ratings  ·  313 reviews


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Always Pouting
A retelling of Grimm Fairy tales combined with some confessional verses. I feel like personally poetry is very hit and miss for me and I just didn't enjoy this that much. I also never really enjoyed Silvia Plath's poetry to be fair and Anne Sexton is similar in a sense. I also felt pretty uncomfortable reading Rapunzel with it's undertones of sexuality between an older woman and a younger woman because there are allegations of sexual abuse against Sexton from her own daughter and the whole time ...more
Kinga
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pub-1971
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
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.
Teresa
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
...more
Natalie
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
...more
Bill Kerwin
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I have never been quite what to make of this book. Reimaginings of the classic fairy tales by one of the brightest intellects and darkest souls of American poetry would seem like an almost guaranteed classic, a marriage of genius and subject matter made in heaven … hell … or both. But the poems themselves have never quite convinced me. The metaphors, though occasionally illuminating and shocking, are often slapdash and cutesy; the verse line is slack, lacking the grace and force that should shap
...more
Janelle
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2020
Dark, twisted and quite brilliant retellings of Grimms fairy tales, from Cinderella to sleeping beauty, Hansel and Gretel and many others. There’s sex, death , violence and cruelty, with modern day references particularly to disability and madness. For example this from Iron Hans :
“He who kills his father
and thrice wins his mother
undoes the spell.

Without Thorazine
or benefit of psychotherapy
Iron Hans was transformed.
No need for Master Medical;
no need for electroshock-
Merely bewitched all along.
...more
Mikki
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
...more
Katy
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.
Karsten
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
...more
mwpm
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.
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
Elizabeth
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
G.
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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".
Sylvain
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."
Aaron Badida
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first Sexton was "Little Girl, My Stringbean, My Lovely Woman,” and I will never forget how it seemed to possess multitudes of feminine wisdom. I expected other work to pale in comparison. I was foolish in that expectation. There isn’t enough time to unpack the layers in Transformations, but suffice it to say that Sexton’s artistic and clever subversion of well-known stories is an act of deconstruction that will not leave the feminist wanting.
Jack
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
...more
Liam
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
...more
Rachel Jorquera
Another wonderful re-read for me.

Transformations by Anne Sexton is a contemporary retelling of well known and foundational fairy tales. Sexton reconstructs these tales in a modern way by giving them a prologue.

I really loved the way Sexton puts a confessional twist on these narratives by using the prologue to introduce a retelling that is produced from the same vein as the original tales. If you are coming at this collection of tales at the same vantage point as Carter’s retelling, you may be
...more
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).
Mir
Mar 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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."
Jade
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.
Eric Cartier
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many of Sexton's poems here reminded me of the tone of Donald Barthelme's short stories - they're darkly humorous and winking throughout - and I quite enjoyed them.

There's a fine black and white photograph of the poet on the back cover, which is a relief, because the illustration and colors on the front cover are hideous.
Tjaša
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.
Sydney S
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ehh, poetry, classics
I really wanted to love this collection. I really enjoyed Sexton’s Selected Poems, a book that had all the hearty despair of Sylvia Plath with a sharper feminist edge. I just didn’t feel any emotional response to Transformations. It felt like a bunch of lazy retellings of classic fairy-tales. I know, I feel like a traitor even saying that, but it did. There wasn’t anything fresh or creative about it. She threw in some modern references here and there, like Orphan Annie, typewriters, "singing to ...more
Marne Wilson
A friend of mine has been on an Anne Sexton kick and wanted me to read some of her poetry. Our library only has three of her books, and this is the one that sounded the most appealing to me, but maybe it wasn't the right place to start. These poems are retellings of classic fairy tales, based on the Brothers Grimm versions. Each starts out with sort of a freewheeling introduction to the themes of the story and then settles down to the narrative itself. When passed through Sexton's filter, these ...more
Patrick Braue
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
After reading her "Love Poems" this collection is even more interesting as it takes the form of a collection of stories and fairy tales, yet with a Sexton twist which draws you in further. The illustrations make the poems seem more menacing and also dirtier than the words would seem to convey. One of the few moments where the illustrations in a book of poetry enhanced the experience for me. It's so good.
Paige Pagnotta
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018, classics
"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
-Vincie-W-
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.

-THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES

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.
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Into the Forest: Daily Deal: Transformations by Anne Sexton 4 17 Apr 29, 2018 05:40AM  

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1,750 followers
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

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