Notes for “On the Fairy Tales School of English-Language Poetry,” by Daniel A. Rabuzzi, published in The Critical Flame: A Journal of Literature and Culture, Issue 71 (June, 2022)

Gabriela Mistral, “The Teller of Tales” (“La Contadora,” translated by Ursula K. Le Guin), in Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral; Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin, University of New Mexico Press, 2003, page 391.

Tobler/Yellowboy:  Interview at, August 26th, 2013.

Rita Dove, interviewed by Elizabeth Alexander, at, Oct./Nov. 2005.

“ 'You have to believe / That you have something impossible up your sleeve,' as A.E. Stallings writes.”  From Stallings' “Fairy-tale Logic” (Poetry, March 2010). 

Dana Gioia, “Can Poetry Matter?” The Atlantic (May, 1991); John Barr, “American Poetry in the New Century,” Poetry (September, 2006).

“By 'fairy tales,' I mean a wide variety of traditional wonder stories from all over the globe, including fables, animal tales, supernatural legends, and kindred species within the forest of folktale; story in the wild rarely conforms to strict classification.”  See: Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales (Princeton University Press, 1987); Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (Princeton University Press, 2012); Kay Turner & Pauline Greenhill (eds.), Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms (Wayne State University Press, 2012); Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, Ruth McKoy Lowery & Laretta Henderson (eds.), Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness: Essays on Adaptations of Familiar Stories (McFarland, 2013); Marina Warner, Once Upon A Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (Oxford University Press, 2014); Henry Louis Gates & Maria Tatar (eds.), The Annotated African American Folktales (Norton, 2017); Andrew Teverson (ed.), The Fairy Tale World (Routledge, 2019); Mayako Murai & Luciana Cardi (eds.), Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale: Contemporary Adaptations Across Cultures (Wayne State University Press, 2020). 

Ref. “literary fairy tales” (Kunstmärchen): Mathias Mayer & Jens Tismar, Kunstmärchen (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1997); Jacques Barchilon, “Adaptations of Folktales and Motifs in Madame D'Aulnoy's Contes: A Brief Survey of Influence and Diffusion,” Marvels & Tales, 23:2 (2009); Ruth Bottigheimer and Ole Meyer, “Ruth B. Bottigheimer's Straparola Thesis and Ole Meyer's Peau d'Asne Fragment: The Controversy 2005-2019,” Fabula 62: 1-2 (2021).  NB: The boundaries between folk tradition and literary process are porous, with much cross-fertilization.

“We can expect to read more poets retelling in English the stories sung at Tamil vilpattu performances, Chinese tónghuà, Wolof léép, the cuentos populares from a hundred places, the tales woven by Arabic hakawati ...”  With an important caveat: we should expect the poets in question to have standing in and an authentic connection to the underlying tradition.  See: Jane Smith & Patricia Wiese, “Authenticating Children's Literature: Raising Cultural Awareness with an Inquiry-Based Project in a Teacher Education Course,” Teacher Education Quarterly (Spring 2006); Debbie Reese, “Proceed with Caution: Using Native American Folktales in the Classroom” (National Council of Teachers of English, 2007); Simon Bronner, “Folklore and Folklife Studies: The Discipline of Analyzing Traditions: Literary and Textual Approaches,” ALA Choice 50:9 (May 2013);  R.B. Lemberg, “The Uses and Limitations of the Folklorist's Toolkit for Fiction,” Strange Horizons (November 30th, 2015);  Dan Ben-Amos, “Introduction to the Special Issue 'The Challenge of Folklore to the Humanities,'” Humanities 10:18 (2021).

“Much of the most innovative and important work in fiction today draws on mythologies, legends, and folktales from among hundreds of different cultures in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas.” Books by Nalo Hopkinson, Vandana Singh, Yoon Ha Lee, Rebecca Roanhorse, Nnedi Okorafor, Indra Das, Aliette de Bodard, Darcie Little Badger, Marlon James, Zen Cho, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and P. Djèlí Clark are good places to start. 

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Stealing The Language; The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon, 1986), especially chapter 6 on “Women Poets and Revisionist Mythology,” including footnotes 13 & 14 to chapter 6 (pages 284-288).

“A fairy tale poem is one branch on the tree of speculative poetry, a lively field encompassing science fiction, fantasy, horror, the Gothic and the (New) Weird, and with its own sense of history and criticism (the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association was founded in 1978).”  See:; Mark Rich, “The Idea of the Real: Notes on the History of Speculative Poetry,” Strange Horizons (January 7th, 2002); Rich, “Two Takes on Speculative Poetry,” The New York Review of Science Fiction (November, 2003); Rich, “The Transformation of Speculative Poetry: On Wiscon Panels in 2008 and 2013,”  The New York Review of Science Fiction (September, 2013); “Interview: Bruce Boston by JoSelle Vanderhooft,” Strange Horizons (June 18th, 2007); Amal El-Mohtar,  “How to Read Poetry 101: Whys and Wherefores,” (April 4th, 2013); AJ Odasso, Romie Stott, and Sonya Taaffe, “Defining Speculative Poetry: A Conversation and Three Manifestos,” Strange Horizons (February 24th, 2014); and see Kate Bernheimer's editorial note in each annual edition of Fairy Tale Review.

Wolfgang Mieder (ed.), Disenchantments: An Anthology of Modern Fairy Tale Poetry (University of Vermont Press, 1985); Jeanne Marie Beaumont & Claudia Carlson (eds.), The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems From Grimm Fairy Tales (Story Line Press, 2003).

“Sizable archives and tables of content at The Rhysling Awards & Anthologies (Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association), The Journal of Mythic Arts, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, and Scheherezade’s Bequest.”;;; ;  See also the sites for Enchanted Conversation, Corvid Queen, Grimoire, and Gingerbread House.

“...tremendous recent growth in English-language fairy tale retellings both in poetry and in prose—and a related upsurge in scholarly and critical analysis of the retellings.”  See: H.R. Ellis Davidson, “Folklore and Literature,” Folklore 86 (Summer, 1975); Cristina Bacchilega,“Folk and Literary Narrative in a Postmodern Context: The Case of the Märchen,” Fabula 29, no. Jahresband (1988); Susan Stewart, “Notes on Distressed Genres,” The Journal of American Folklore 104, nr. 411 (1991);  Joyce Carol Oates, “In Olden Times, When Wishing Was Having...Classic and Contemporary Fairy Tales,” The Kenyon Review, New Series, XIX:3-4 (Summer/Autumn, 1997); Bacchilega, Fairy Tales Transformed?: Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (Wayne State University Press, 2013); Stephen Benson (ed.), Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale (Wayne State University Press, 2008); Christa Mastrangelo Joyce, “Contemporary Women Poets and the Fairy Tale” in Susan Redington Bobby (ed.) Fairy Tales Reimagined: Essays on New Retellings (McFarland & Company, 2009);  Catriona McAra & David Calvin (eds.), Anti-Tales: The Uses of Disenchantment (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011); Heather Akumiah, “Bookforum talks with Helen Oyeyemi, Bookforum (June 20th, 2016); Deborah Stanish, “Interview: Kat Howard,” Uncanny Magazine, issue 10 (2016);  Sara Helen Binney, “How 'the Old Stories Persist': Folklore in Literature after Postmodernism,” C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings 6:2 (2018); Rachel Brittain, “30 Must-Read Queer Fairytale Retellings for Pride,” Book Riot (June 24th, 2021); Sophie Raynard-Leroy & Charlotte Trinquet du Lys, “Gender Fluidity: From Euphemism to Pride; An Editorial with Comprehensive Bibliography on Gender Fluidity in Children's Literature and Fairy Tales,” Open Cultural Studies 5 (2021).

“There were certainly precursors to our current boom...” Precursors include Albert Lord's The Singer of Tales (1960), the publication of the first English translation of the Sundiata Epic in 1965, Randall Jarrell's The Animal Family with illustrations by Maurice Sendak (1965) and Tolkien's “On Fairy-Stories” (first made widely accessible in The Tolkien Reader, published in 1966), besides inspirations such as Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968), Ursula K. Le Guin's first Earthsea trilogy (1968-1972; also her “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie” in 1973), John Gardner's retelling of Beowulf through Grendel's eyes in his 1971 novel, and Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1974).  At grand scale in a directly proximate space: Rita Dove retold Oedipus Rex in her verse-drama The Darker Face of the Earth, published in 1994 and performed at the Kennedy Center (1997) and the Royal National Theatre in London (1999).  Gerald McDermott's adaptation Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti was a 1973 Caldecott honoree.  The very popular Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library began publishing one hefty volume a year in 1978, ultimately producing some 20 titles covering traditions from across the globe by its conclusion in 2002.  As the “whole language movement” gained ground in the 1970s and 1980s, fairy tales and folklore texts from around the world became a substantial part of elementary school reading curricula in the U.S.A. (excellent discussion of curricular impact in Elizabeth Enochs, A Cautionary Tale: Mixed Methods Analysis of Elementary School Library Folklore Collections [Dissertation, 2016], pp. 12, 14-20, 38-53). Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre (1982-'87) enjoyed large television and home media audiences.  Adjacent precursors surely include the revivals of traditional British and Irish music starting in the late 1960s, e.g., The Chieftains, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span; the “progressive rock” movement of the 1970s , e.g., Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis; the 1970s mythological phantasmagoria of Sun Ra, Parliament-Funkadelic and Earth, Wind & Fire; the arrivals of Kate Bush (1978), Loreena McKennitt (1985), Enya (1987), Björk (1993), Missy Elliott (1997), Janelle Monáe (2003).  Bowie (first album 1967) and Prince (1978) deserve special mention.  Even Led Zeppelin wove fairy lore through some of their biggest hits.

Theodora Goss (ed.), Voices from Fairyland: The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew, and Sylvia Townsend Warner (Aqueduct Press, 2008); includes an introduction and commentary by Goss, plus poems of her own in conversation with those of Coleridge, Mew and Townsend Warner.  See also Elizabeth Wanning Harries, Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale (Princeton University Press, 2001); and the 2011 dissertation by Jacquilyn Weeks: Fairies, Fairy Tales, and the Development of British Poetics.

Sonya Taaffe speaking with Scott Nicolay on “The State of the Weird” podcast, at c. 1:28:00- 1:31:00 of

“Such investigation indicates how deeply fairy tale poets have read and how widely.”  For instance, Akua Lezli Hope highlights The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Beowulf, “our shared foundational creations […] story-poems of a mythic, fantastic, and transformational nature,” as core inspiration for speculative poets (Akua Lezli Hope, “Editor's Note.” NOMBONO: Speculative Poetry by BIPOC Poets. Edited by Akua Lezli Hope. Sundress Publications, 2021. Page 6). Of course, fairy tale poets know their fairy tales.  To present a particularly telling example: Ruth Daniell's The Brightest Thing comes with scholarly endnotes and glosses throughout – poem titles include “Folk Tale Type 425C” (referring to the Arne-Thompson-Uther Index of folktale types) and “On Reading the Fairy Tales Recently Recovered from the Municipal Archive of Regensburg, Bavaria” (referring to 500 stories collected in the 1850s, first discovered in 2012, and published in English in 2015). 

“...they operate within wider socio-literary movements propelled by anti-colonialist, anti-racist, eco-poetical, pro-labor and pro-feminist ideas, catalyzed by evolving concepts of gender and sexuality.”  I think it would be fruitful to explore fairy tale poetry in light of the pioneering work by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population & Social Structure and classics by E.P. Thompson on the making of the English working class and Eric Hobsbawn on the “invention of tradition.”  I suggest the Annales School's emphasis on mentalité and the longue durée, and the Italian concept of “microhistory,” Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History (1982), the vast bodies of scholarship sparked by Gerda Lerner and Joan Scott and likewise the influential work by Édouard Glissant on the Caribbean and Paul Gilroy on “the Black Atlantic.”

Anna Reading, “The Restitutional Assemblage: The Art of Transformative Justice at Parramatta Girls Home, Australia, in Paul Gready & Simon Robins (eds.), From Transitional to Transformative Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

“Above all, the time and place of the fairy tale are indeterminate...”  Beyond the scope of this survey, but a topic that deserves more attention, especially as it relates to retellings in poetry.  See generally: Paul Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” and Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality,” both in Critical Inquiry 7:1 (Autumn, 1980); and JoAnn Conrad, “The Storied Time of Folklore,” Western Folklore 73:2/3 (2014).

Kathryn Allen Rabuzzi, The Sacred and the Feminine: Toward a Theology of Housework (Seabury Press, 1982), 1.  She is my mother.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers (Indiana University Press, 1985); Lyn Hejinian, “The Rejection of Closure” (original presented 1983; revised form in Poetics Journal 4 [May, 1984] ).   

Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperCollins, 1997), pg. 178.

Adam Kirsch, The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry (Norton, 2008), pg. 40.

Ange Mlinko interviewed by Tyler Bourgoise, “Poetry Must Still Dance: An Interview with Ange Mlinko,” The Paris Review (June 17th, 2013). 

Stephanie Burt, Don't Read Poetry (Basic Books, 2019), pg. 227.

“...African American poets who address history with the goal of refuting a dominant narrative of the past.”  Kevin Young, Jelly Roll: A Blues (Knopf, 2003); Young, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press, 2012); Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014); Evie Shockley, “Going Overboard: African American Poetic Innovation and the Middle Passage,” Contemporary Literature 52:4 (Winter 2011); Anthony Reed, “Ain't Gonna Change One Fact: Tyehimba Jess and the Documents of History,” (April 26th, 2019); Vievee Francis, Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006);  Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).  In terms of critical analysis, points of departure for me include Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford University Press, 1988), and Cheryl A. Wall, Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

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