The clock strikes

Cinderella by Margaret Evans Price
The clock has gone past here in England, at least, the Winter Poetry Challenge is now over. (If it's not yet midnight wherever you are, then you have a little more time to post.)

A huge thank you to everyone who participated this time around. It's been thrilling watching your poems appear -- works by seasoned professionals and shy newcomers sitting side by side, deep in poetic conversation. And although the Challenge closes to new poems at the stroke of twelve, please do continue to respond to the poems that are here and keep the conversation going. There are some wonderful late entries that don't yet have feedback, and shouldn't be missed.

Now I'm off to catch a pre-dawn ride to the airport, visions of bears, magic mirrors, poisoned apples, shards of ice, fleet-footed deer, wolves and wilderness travelling with me. I'm grateful to you all for a week of enchantment. The Mythic Arts community never fails to astound me.

Art above: Cinderella by Margaret Evans Price (1888-1973)

Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 5

Charles Freger

It's the last day of the Poetry Challenge, so sharpen your pencils one last time. Our theme today is "The Wild in Myth, Folklore, and Fantasy." Interpret that as you will. Wild as in wilderness; wild as in mythic Wild Men and Wild Women; wild as in Trickster tales and's entirely up to you. If you need inspiration, have a look at this post on wild folklore from the "Into the Woods" series.

I'll post the rules of the game one more time:

I am challenging all you poets out there to share a poem (or poems) on the theme of the day. Brand new poems are encouraged, but your older poems are welcome too. You don't have to be a published poet to contribute; you don't have to be a regular reader of this blog; and you don't even have to be an adult (but if you're a child, please let us know your age). To participate, just post your poem(s) in the comments thread below. Reader response to the poems is encouraged and deeply appreciated, as our goal is feedback for every poem. It truly "take a village" to make these Challenges work, and I'm deeply grateful to you all.

Speaking of feedback, do check in on the Comment threads from earlier in the week, where lovely new poems keeping appearing, as if by magic....

Charles Freger

As something of a departure for this last day of the Challenge, our featured poem doesn't come from the Journal of Mythic Arts, but from my friend and Chagford neighbor Tom Hirons, whose richly mythic poem "Sometimes a Wild God" is the perfect piece to kick off the day. "When the wild god arrives at the door," Tom writes,

Charles FregerYou will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.

He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.

You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.

The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside...

You can read the full poem here, on Tom's Coyopa blog. Or listen to a reading of the piece by Mark Lewis below:

Charles Freger

The photographs here come from Wilder Mann, a photography series by Charles Fréger (based in Rouen, France), who spent two years traveling through nineteen countries documenting the folk pageants and festivals of what he calls "tribal Europe." The resulting photographs have been exhibited internationally, and collected into an absolutely amazing art book. The art, in turn, inspired a CD of music by the Italian composer .and sound designer Theo Teardo, Music for Wilderness.


Charles Freger

Charles Freger

The Winter Poetry Challenge ends at midnight tonight, whatever your local time is. You're welcome to comment on poems after that, but no more poem entries, please, once the clock strikes midnight.

Now I'll leave you with these words by Jay Griffiths, from her fascinating and brilliant book Wild: An Elemental Journey:

“The wild. I have drunk it, deep and raw, and heard it's primal, unforgettable roar. We know it in our dreams, when our mind is off the leash, running wild. 'Outwardly, the equivalent of the unconscious is the wilderness: both of these terms meet, one step even further on, as one,' wrote Gary Snyder. 'It is in vain to dream of a wildness distinct from ourselves. There is none such,' wrote Thoreau. 'It is the bog in our brains and bowls, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires the dream.' "

Charles Freger

Charles Freger

Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 4

Winged Dear Tapestry

The theme for Day 4 of the Poetry Challenge is: Deer in Fairy Tales, Folkore, and Myth.

"As long as people have lived or hunted alongside the deer's habitats," writes Ari Berk (in Where the White Stag Runs), "there have been stories: some of kindly creatures who become the wives of mortals; or of lost children changed into deer for a time, reminding their kin to honor the relationship with the Deer People, their close neighbors. And there are darker tales, recalling strange journeys into the Otherworld, abductions, and dangerous transformations that don't end well at all. But all stories about the deer share some common ground by showing us that the line between our world and theirs is very thin indeed."

For inspiration, have a look at the week's worth of deer art, poetry, prose, and links I posted 0n Myth & Moor in July. There are so many good deer-related fairy tales and myths that the hard part will be deciding which to choose.

Out of Narnia by Su Blackwell

Caretaker 2 by Jeanie Tomanek

Deer Woman by Susan Seddon Boulet

The rules of the Challenge are listed in Tuesday's post; if you're new to this, please read them before you join in. Everyone is welcome to participate by contributing poems, giving feedback to the poets, and joining in the conversation. Many thanks to all who have done so already...your generosity is overwhelming, everyone.

Don't forget that new poems will continue to appear under all of the posts until the Challenge closes at midnight on Saturday, so be sure to go back to the Bear, Snow White, and Snow Queen threads to read the latest offerings there too. And good luck in the woods on the trail of the deer. Enchantment abounds there. Be careful.

Brother and Sister by Carl Offterdinger

We start, as usual, with a poem from the Journal of Mythic Arts archives, and today it's one of mine. "Brother and Sister" is based on the Grimms' fairy tale of that name, which has haunted me ever since I was young. It's followed by a poem in response by Barth Anderson, written from the deer-brother's point of view. Barth is the author of The Patron Saint of Plagues and The Magician and the Fool, and I recommend them both with great pleasure.

Caretaker by Jeanie Tomanek

Brother and Sister
by Terri Windling

do you remember, brother
those days in the wood
when you ran with the deer —
falling bloody on my doorstep at dusk
stepping from the skin
grateful to be a man?
and do you know, brother
just how I longed
to wrap myself in the golden hide
smelling of musk
blackberries and rain?
The Muse by T Windlingtell me that tale
give me that choice
and I'll choose speed and horn and hoof —
give me that choice
all you cruel, clever fairies
and I'll choose the wood
not the prince.


Sister and Brother
by Barth Anderson

you long to run in musky rain and princely skins
but, sister, I have sped that hidebound marathon
wearing golden hides that warped my hands
     to hooves
and broke my scalp with a crown of horns —
I've run through thorns and thirsty fens
through wolves that bite and cats that catch —
those blood-dried hides of hoary kings
Brother & Sister film posterscoured raw my skin and
deadened my heart with hammering —
when I reached your hearth I shucked that hide
and faerie hands unveiled my sight:
ever beneath that scouring skin
proud, callow princes were scraped away
revealing numb and bloody men below.
but no more hides and no more hurts
run, sister, if you must but no more marathons
      for me
for I choose this hearth, not the princely hide,
and I will let my skin knit smooth.


                               Leaping deer



Filmmaker Lisa Stock also responded to the poem, with a beautiful short film full of deer, snow, and magic. If you ever have a chance to see it, or any of her InByTheEye productions, don't miss it.

The White Deer by Virginia Francis Sterett

Young Kenyan Woman Holding a Pet Deer

The art above is: A medieval French "Winged Deer" tapestry design, "Out of Narnia" by papercut artist Su Blackwell, "Caretaker 2" by Jeanie Tomanek, "Deer Woman" by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), "Brother and Sister" by Carl Offterdinger (1829-1889), "Caretaker" by Jeanie Tomanek, "The Muse" by T. Windling, poster for "Brother & Ssister" - a film by Lisa Stock, "The White Deer" by Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931), and an early 20th century photograph of a young Kenyan woman with her pet deer.

Publication information: "Brother and Sister"  first appeared The Armless Maiden anthology, and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts and The Poets' Grimm. It is copyright c 1995 by T. Windling; all rights reserved by the author. "Sister and Brother" first appeared in the Journal of Mythic Arts. It is copyright c 2003 by Barth Anderson; all rights reserved by the author. All poems posted in the Comments thread are the property of their authors, who likewise reserve all rights.

Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 3

The Snow Queen by Charles Robinson

Today's theme for the Poetry Challenge is The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

Once again, if you're new to the Poetry Challenge, please read the rules (in the first post) before you join in. Deepest thanks to everyone in the Mythic Arts community who has contributed to the Challenge so far, either by bravely posting your poems, or by kindly commenting on them. (Although more commenters would be welcome. We're not yet meeting the goal of a response for each poem. Don't be shy!) And don't forget to re-visit the Bear and Snow White posts, where magical works continue to appear.

The Snow Queen by P.J. Lynch

Our poem from the JoMA archives this morning is "The Snow Queen" by Jeannine Hall Gailey -- a wry, contemporary take on Kay's enthrallment to the Snow Queen from Gerda's point of view. (Sandra Gilbert also explores this idea in "The Last Poem About the Snow Queen," from her collection Blood Pressure.) Jeannine's poems have appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and on NPR's The Writer's Alamanac. She's published three poetry collections, Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, all of which are highly recommended.

The Snow Queen and Kay by Angela BarrettThe Snow Queen

You tell yourself he only left you for her
because of the wicked shard of glass in his eye,
but the truth is, every man wants an ice princess.
The truth is, you're too easy to get used to —

your sloppy warmth, the heat from your skin
fresh from the garden — it's too much for him.
He'd rather marvel at her tedious snowflakes,
caress her frosted hair, bask in that cold gaze,

that veneer of symmetry. So you wander
around town like an idiot, forgetting
even your shoes. The boys there
are all still in awe of her. "Did you see

Kay and Gerda by Vladyslav Yerkothat thing she was driving?" they keep asking.
You set off to bring him back, not thinking
you are the last person he wants to see.
"He's trapped in that ice castle," you murmur,

"He needs to be rescued." Dogged, you follow
the tiny shards of glass, and their sparkle.
And when you finally find him, dark with cold
from her brutal kisses, he doesn't even

recognize you. You stop blaming the shard
in his eye; how can you rescue a man
whose heart, transfixed by skeletal crystal,
craves the bruising of frost?



The Snow Queen by Vladyslav Yerko

Andersen's Snow Queen is a long tale, told in seven parts, and your poems can address any or all of them -- giving you many themes to explore and many characters to choose from: male and female, human and nonhuman, good-hearted and wicked (and those who are in between) can take your pick.

Rebecca Solnit, for example, focuses on the natural elements in Andersen's tale in this passage from The Faraway Goodbye:

"You could read The Snow Queen as a story about primordial forces versus animal empathies or even cold versus warmth. The boy with ice in his heart, Kai, disappears into the north on his sled, and his friend, Gerda, from the adjoining attic, misses him, weeps, waits for spring, kisses her grandmother goodbye, and walks to Illustration by W. Heath Robinsonthe river to begin looking for the boy."  After months of delay by an old woman with a magical garden, "she escapes into a landscape where autumn is spreading, and falls in with a talking crow, and then a prince and a princess, and then a robber girl who unties a captive reindeer for Gerda to ride. The talking reindeer, who is himself a marker of how far north she is,  carries her deeper into the north, into the country of winter, into her quest. On his back she reaches the home of  a second old woman, a Laplander who sends her on with an introduction written on a dried cod to a third, a Finnish woman farther north. This third fate or fairy or crone lives almost naked in a saunalike house and puts ice on the reindeer's head to keep it comfortable.

"Even the reindeer implores the grimy Finnish enchantress for aid for Gerda; it's a fairy tale in which everything helps the humble and openhearted, in which every creature, except the trolls and the Snow Queen, serves the principal of warmth in its own way. But the Finnish woman replies, in this story of women and animals and hardly a man, 'I can't give her any greater power than she already has. Don't you see how great it is? Don't you see how people and animals want to serve her, how she has come so far in the world in her bare feet?"

Gerda and the Reindeer by Edmund Dulac

 Deborah Eisenberg speaks (in Mirror, Mirror on the Wall) of how unsettling she found the fairy tale as a child:

"The febrile clarity and propulsion," she writes, "is accomplished at the expense of the reader's nerves. Especially taxing are the claims on the reader by both Kay and Gerda. Who has not, like Gerda, been exiled from the familiar comforts of one's world by the departure or defection of a beloved? And what child has not been confounded by the daily employment of impossible obstacles and challenges? Who has not been forced to accede to a longing that nothing but its object can allay? On the other hand, who has not experienced some measure or some element of Kay's despair? Who has not, at one time or another, been paralyzed and estranged as his appetite and affection for life leaches away? . . . Who has not, at least briefly, retreated into a shining hermetic fortress from which the rest of the world appears frozen and colorless? Who has not courted an annihilating involvement? Who has not mistaken intensity for significance? What devotee of art has not been denied art's blessing? And who, withholding sympathy from his unworthy self, has not been ennobled by the sympathy of a loving friend?"


To re-read the story, go here. To learn more about the fairy-tale-like life its author, go here.

Gerda and Kay by P.J. Lynch

The Snow Queen by Errol Le Cain

The art above is: "The Snow Queen" by Charles Robinson (1870-1937), "The Snow Queen" by P.J. Lynch, "The Snow Queen and Kay " by Kelley McMorris,  "Kay and Gerda" and "The Snow Queen and Kay" by Vladyslav Yerko, "Gerda and the Crow" by Charles Robinson, "Gerda and the Reindeer" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), "Gerda and Kay" by P.J. Lynch,  and "Gerda and the Reindeer" by Errol Le Cain (1941-1989).

Publication information: "The Snow Queen"  first appeared in Becoming the Villainess, and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts. It is copyright c 2006 by Jeannine Hall Gailey, and all rights are reserved by the author. All poems posted in the Comments thread are the property of their authors, who likewise reserve all rights.