THE POETS GRIMM is an essential addition to the collection of anyone who grew up with fairy tales - that is, everyone in America who ever opened a storybook that began "Once upon a time. . ." or watched a Disney movie that opened with a princess tortured by her evil stepmother. Here are the stories from the Grimm brothers collections that terrified and delighted us as children, now revisited with adult distance, wisdom, and humor. Ably edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, THE POETS GRIMM embraces the breadth of poetry in English in the 20th century, from our most recent poet laureate, Louise Glück, to writers like Terri Windling and Jane Yolen, best known for their work in contemporary fantasy and science fiction. Anne Sexton's important poem, "Twelve Dancing Princesses," from her groundbreaking collection TRANSFORMATIONS, is included, as is an intensely moving poem by Amy Lowell from 1912, which strikes a surprisingly contemporary note.
A deep sympathy for the much maligned usual suspects, wolves and witches, underlies the entire volume, and frankly, if I were Prince Charming, I'd have a call in to my lawyer about a possible libel suit. Perhaps most American of all the Grimm interpretations found here is Tim Siebles' "What Bugs Bunny said to Red Riding Hood," which alone is worth the price of the entire collection.
Reading the poems in this collection bathes the old tales in a new and revelatory light; most telling of all perhaps are the poems which offer new versions of the detailed and mysterious marching orders given to every fairy tale hero or heroine who set off, willingly or not, on a quest. Neil Gaiman's "Instructions," in this vein, makes wonderful new sense of these ever-puzzling rules. Through these poems we see our own childhoods recast, and the clamor of impossibly conflicting childhood directives we all received invoked and examined.
The Poets Grimm offers a wonderful snapshot of poetry of the last half of the last century, taken through an enchanted lens, and I highly recommend it to anyone who ever felt a little cheated by the words, "And they lived happily ever after."