Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 2

Snow White by Charles Santore

Snow White by Angela Barrett

Welcome to Day 2 of the Poetry Challenge. Our theme today is the fairy tale Snow White.

The rules of the Challenge are listed in the yesterday's post. They're simple, but if you're new to this, please read them before you join in.  Many thanks to everyone who has contributed poetry so far, as well as to all you lovely readers who have been responding to the poems. The goal is to give feedback to every poem, and this wouldn't work without you. Bless you for taking the time.

Also: Please note, everyone, that there are still wonderful bear poems appearing in yesterday's Comments thread, so be sure to go back and read them too! The Challenge closes on midnight Saturday (whatever your local time is), but up until then you can continue to contribute poems to any of the Challenge posts.

We begin today with a heart-breaking and absolutely gorgeous Snow White poem by Delia Sherman. Delia is the author of many fine books and stories for teenagers and adults, including the fairy tale novel A Porcelain Dove, and the multi-award winning novel The Freedom Maze, which has just come out in paperback.

Snow White to the Prince

Snow White by Yvonne GilbertI am beautiful you say, sublime,
Black and crystal as a winter's night,
With lips like rubies, cabochon,
My eyes deep blue as sapphires.
I cannot blame you for your praise:
You took me for my beauty, after all;
A jewel in a casket, still as death,
A lovely effigy, a prince's prize,
The fairest in the land.

But you woke me, or your horses did,
Stumbling as they bore me down the path,
Shaking the poisoned apple from my throat.
And now you say you love me, and would wed me
For my beauty's sake. My cursed beauty.
Will you hear now why I curse it?
It should have been my mother's — it had been,
Snow White by Jennie HarbourUntil I took it from her.

I was fourteen, a flower newly blown,
My mother's faithful shadow and her joy.
I remember combing her hair one day,
Playing for love her tire-woman's part,
Folding her thick hair strand over strand
Into an ebon braid, thick as my wrist,
And pinned it round and round her head
Into a living crown.
I looked up from my handiwork and saw
Our faces, hers and mine, caught in the mirror's eye.
Twin white ovals like repeated moons
Bright amid our midnight hair. Our eyes
Snow White by Trina Schart HymanLike heaven's bowl; our lips like autumn berries.
She frowned a little, lifted hand to throat.
Turned her head this way and then the other.
Our eyes met in the glass.

I saw what she had seen: her hair white-threaded,
Her face and throat fine-lined, her eyes softened
Like a mirror that clouds and cracks with age;
While I was newly silvered, sharp and clear.
I hid my eyes, but could not hide my knowledge.
Forty may be fair; fourteen is fairer still.
She smiled at my reflection, cold as glass,
Snow White by Nancy Ekholm BurkertAnd then dismissed me thankless.

Not long after the huntsman came, bearing
A knife, a gun, a little box, to tell me
My mother no longer loved me. He spared me, though,
Unasked, because I was too beautiful to kill.
And the seven little men whose house
I kept that winter and the following year,
They loved me for my beauty's sake, my beauty
That cost me my mother's love.

Do you think I did not know her,
Ragged and gnarled and stooped like a wind-bent tree,
Her basket full of combs and pins and laces?
Of course I took her poisoned gifts. I wanted
Snow White by Trina Schart HymanTo feel her hands combing out my hair,
To let her lace me up, to take an apple
From her hand, a smile from her lips,
As when I was a child.


      Snow White by Jennie Harbour

Snow White by Charles Santore

Soon after Delia published her poem, Polly Peterson wrote a poignant response:"From the Prince to Snow White." You can read it here.

To re-read the fairy tale itself, go here; and to learn about its history, go here.

Snow White by Trina Schart Hyman

The art above is: "Snow White's Mother" by Charles Santore, "Snow White's Mother" by Angela Barrett, "Snow White in the Woods" by Yvonne Gilvert, "Mirror, Mirror" by Jennie Harbour, "Mirror, Mirror" by Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004), "The Poisoned Apple" by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, "The Poisoned Laces" by Trina Schart Hyman, "She fell down dead" (drawing) by Jennie Harbour, "Snow White's Glass Coffin" by Charles Santore, "Snow White and the Prince" by Trina Schart Hyman.

Publication information: "Snow White to the Prince"  first appeared The Armless Maiden anthology, and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts. The poem is copyright c 1995 by Delia Sherman; 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 1

Bear Dance by Susan Seddon Boulet

It's the Winter Poetry Challenge, which will run each day from now through Saturday. Here's how it works:

I challenge all you poets out there to share a poem (or poems) on a mythic theme posted each day. There are no rules beyond adhering to each day's theme: 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). I'll start the ball rolling each morning by posting a poem on the theme from the Journal of Mythic Arts archives, along with related imagery.

There are two ways to participate in the Poetry Challenge, both equally important: One is by posting your poem(s) in the Comments thread under each post. The other is by leaving feedback for the poets, which I highly encourage everyone to do. Please help us out by joining in the conversation.

(And if you're still not sure about how this works, have a look at the Autumn Poetry Challenge. Just follow this link and scroll down.)

Since we've been discussing bears and hibernation on this blog recently, today's theme is: Bears in Myth, Fairy Tales, and Fantasy. Some examples: the white bear in East of the Sun, West of the Moon; the bear husbands in Bearskin, Snow White and Rose Red, and various Native American tales; and the numerous bear gods, goddesses, shamans, and sacred spirits of Finland, Japan, Mongolia, Canada and other places the world over. For inspiration, have a look at the comments under last week's bear posts, full of links to bear poetry and tales.   

To kick off the week, here are three bear poems from the JoMA archives, approaching the theme from three different directions. The first poem is rooted in fairy tale motifs, the second in the myths of the Arctic north, and the third in Robert Southey's classic nursery tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Bear Child by Susan Seddon Boulet

The Bear's Daughter
by Theodora Goss

She dreams of the south. Wandering through the silent castle,
Where snow has covered the parapets, and the windows
White Bear by Kay NielsenAre covered with frost, like panes of isinglass,
She dreams of pomegranates and olive trees.

But to be the bear's daughter is to be a daughter, as well,
Of the north. To have forgotten a time before
The tips of her fingers were blue, before her veins
Were blue like rivers flowing through fields of ice.

To have forgotten a time before her boots
Were elk-leather lined with ermine.
Somewhere in the silent castle, her mother is sleeping
In the bear's embrace, and breathing pomegranates
Into his fur. She is a daughter of the south,
With hair like honey and skin like orange-flowers.

She is a nightingale's song in the olive groves.

And her daughter, wandering through the empty garden,
Where the branches of yew trees rubbing against each other
Sound like broken violins,

Dreams of the south while a cold wind sways the privet,
Takes off her gloves, which are lined with ermine, and places
Her hands on the rim of the fountain, in which the sun
Has scattered its colors, like roses trapped in ice.

Playing with the North Wind by Susan Seddon BouletArktos
by Ari Berk

Rouse with hunger or indifference
to a morning darker than the night
Shake the season from your fur and rise
to stand inseperable from the snow

Below the ice swim seals thick with blood
So shaking somnolence from your brow
you crawl like a man across the drift
smelling for prey, intentions sharp as stone

Wind of knives and fury born of stars
May not deter a giant built of ice and claws
Unless the sleep of solstices be on him
He, Son of Sedna and the Northern Waste

by Neil Gaiman

We owe it to each other to tell stories,
A detail from Arthur Rackham's Goldilocks illustrationsas people simply, not as father and daughter.
I tell it to you for the hundredth time:

"There was a little girl, called Goldilocks,
for her hair was long and golden,
and she was walking in the Wood and she saw — "

"— cows." You say it with certainty,
remembering the strayed heifers we saw in the woods

behind the house, last month.

"Well, yes, perhaps she saw cows,
but also she saw a house."

"— a great big house," you tell me.

"No, a little house, all painted, neat and tidy."

"A great big house."

You have the conviction of all two-year-olds.
I wish I had such certitude.

"Ah. Yes. A great big house.
A detail from Arthur Rackham's Goldilocks illustrationsAnd she went in . . ."

I remember, as I tell it, that the locks
Of Southey's heroine had silvered with age.
The Old Woman and the Three Bears . . .
Perhaps they had been golden once, when she was a child.

And now, we are already up to the porridge,
"And it was too— "
"— hot!"
"And it was too— "
— cold!"
And then it was, we chorus, "just right."

The porridge is eaten, the baby's chair is shattered,
Goldilocks goes upstairs, examines beds, and sleeps,

But then the bears return.
Remembering Southey still, I do the voices:
Father Bear's gruff boom scares you, and you delight in it.

When I was a small child and heard the tale,
A detail from Arthur Rackham's Goldilocks illustrationsif I was anyone I was Baby Bear,
my porridge eaten, and my chair destroyed,
my bed inhabited by some strange girl.

You giggle when I do the baby's wail,
"Someone's been eating my prridge, and they've eaten it —"
"All up," you say. A response it is,
Or an amen.

The bears go upstairs hesitantly,
their house now feels desecrated. They realize
what locks are for. They reach the bedroom.

"Someone's been sleeping in my bed."
And here I hesitate, echoes of old jokes,
soft-core cartoons, crude headlines, in my head.

One day your mouth will curl at that line.
A loss of interest, later, innocence.
Innocence; as if it were a commodity.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Katherine Pyle"And if I could," my father wrote to me,
huge as a bear himself, when I was younger,
"I would dower you with experience, without experience."
and I, in my turn, would pass that on to you.
But we make our own mistakes. We sleep
It is our right. It is our madness and our glory.
The repetition echoes down the years.
When your children grow; when your dark locks begin to silver,
when you are an old woman, alone with your three bears,
what will you see? What stories will you tell?

"And then Goldilicks jumped out of the window and she ran —
Goldilocks and Baby Bear by Margaret TarrantTogether, now: "All the way home."

And then you say, "Again. Again. Again."

We owe it to each other to tell stories.
These days my sympathy's with Father Bear.
Before I leave my house I lock the door,
and check each bed and chair on my return.





The Snow Princess by Ruth Sanderson

The art above is: "Bear Dance" and "Bear Child" by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957), "Playing With the North Wind" by Susan Seddon Boutlet, three illustrations for Robert Southey's "Goldilock and the Three Bears" by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), "Goldilocks" illustrations by Katherine Pyle (1863-1938) and Margaret Tarrant (1888-1958), and "The Snow Princess" by Ruth Sanderson.

Publication information: "The Bear's Daughter"  first appeared in the Journal of Mythic Arts and is copyright c 2004 by Theodora Goss, who reserves all rights. "Arktos" first appeared in the Journal of Mythic Arts and is copyright c 2004 by Ari Berk, who reserves all rights. "Locks" first appeared in Silver Birch, Blood Moon (Datlow & Windling, eds.), and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts; it is copyright c 1999 by Neil Gaiman, who reserves all rights. All poems posted in the Comments thread are the property of their authors, who likewise reserve all rights to them.

Please note:  There are so many responses to this post that Typepad has broken them into two pages. Be sure to click on the "Show More Comments" link at the end of the first page (which is easy to miss) in order to see the lastest poetry additions.

Autumn Poetry Challenge: Last Day

Beauty and the Beast by Mercer Mayer

Sharpen your pencils and rev your computer engines, it's the last day of the Autumn Poetry Challenge. Our theme is the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale. 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 feedback on the poems is encouraged and deeply appreciated.

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....

Beauty and the Beast by Eleanor Vere Boyle

The original version of "Beauty and the Beast" was written in 1740 by Madame Gabrielle–Suzanne de Villeneuve, who was part of the "second wave" of writers of  literary fairy tales in 17th/18th century France.  To read a brief history of the tale, go here. To read more about the salon fairy tales of France, go here.

We have a gorgeous poem from the JoMA archives to start us off today: Jane Yolen's "Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary." Jane is the author of over three hundred books, including poetry collections for both From Beauty and the Beast by Angela Barrettchildren and adults. Her latest collection is Sister Fox's Field Guide to the Writing Life, which can be ordered from Unsettling Wonder

Beauty and the Beast:
An Anniversary

It is winter now,
and the roses are blooming again,
their petals bright against the snow.
My father died last April;
A detail from Beauty and the Beast by Angela Barrettmy sisters no longer write,
except at the turning of the year,
content with their fine houses
and their grandchildren.
Beast and I
putter in the gardens
and walk slowly on the forest paths.
He is graying around the muzzle
and I have silver combs
to match my hair.
I have no regrets.
Though sometimes I do wonder
what sounds children
might have made
running across the marble halls,
swinging from the birches
over the roses
in the snow.

- Jane Yolen

Beauty and the Beast by Angela Barrett

The Beauty and the Beast art above is by Mercer Mayer, Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916), and Angela Barrett. "Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary" first appeared in The Faery Flag by Jane Yolen, and was subsequently reprinted in The Journal of Mythic Arts. It was also recorded by June Tabor on her album Against the Stream, with music by Huw Warren. The poem is copyright c 1989 by Jane Yolen; all rights reserved by the author.

If you post a poem and it doesn't appear right away, don't worry. Sometimes Typepad routes comments to the Spam box -- but I'm checking the box regularly, so your poem will eventually appear. If today's theme doesn't inspire you, the next Poetry Challenge  will be in January.

Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 4

Gerda and the Reindeer by Edmund Dulac

The theme for the Poetry Challenge today is "Animal Brides and Bridegrooms," by which I mean I'm looking for poems inspired by the myths and folk tales found the world over in which men and women are courted by or marry animal spouses (or animal shapeshifters, like selchies) .

The featured poem today (from the JoMA archives) is "The Girl Who Married the Reindeer" by the Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin...but please note that your poem(s) needn't be about reindeer. Any animal (bird, fish, etc.) will do. Fox women, bear suitors, snake bridegrooms, tortoise brides, frog princes and princesses, crane wives, etc. etc. -- they're all good. (But save your "Beauty & the Beast" poems for our last Poetry Challenge tomorrow, even though it's technically an Animal Bridegroom story. And now I've given away tomorrow's theme, so you have extra time to prepare!)

To  read more about Animal Bride/Bridegroom tales, go here. For the rules of the Poetry Challenge, go here.

I'm grateful to all of the writers who are contributing poems, and also to all of the readers who are kindly commenting on them. Do check in on yesterday's Comments thread, as some wonderful new poems have appeared there overnight.... 

Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova 10.27.55The Girl Who Married a Reindeer


When she came to the finger-post
She turned right and walked as far as the mountains.
Patches of snow lay under the thorny bush
That was blue with sloes. She filled her pockets.
The sloes piled into the hollows of her skirt.
The sunset wind blew cold against her belly
And light shrank between the branches
ReindeerWhile her hands raked in the hard fruit.

The reindeer halted before her
And claimed her as his wife.
She rode home on his back without speaking,
Holding her rolled–up skirt,
Her free hand grasping the wide antlers
To keep her steady on the long ride.


How could they let her go back to stay
In that cold house with that strange beast?
So the old queen said, whose son her sister had married.

Thirteen months after she left home
She'd travelled hunched on the deck of a trader
Southwards to her sister's wedding.

Her eyes reflected acres of snow,
Her breasts were large from suckling,
There was salt in her hair.

They met her staggering on the quay;
They put her in a scented bath,
Found a silken dress, combed her hair out.
They slipped a powder in her drink
So she forgot her child, her friend,
The snow, and the sloe gin.


The reindeer died when his child was ten years old.
Naked in death his body was a man's.
Young, with an old man’s face and scored with grief.

When the old woman felt his curse, she sickened,
She lay in her tower bedroom and could not speak.
The young woman who had nursed her grandchildren nursed her.


The boy from the north stood in the archway
That looked into the courtyard where water fell,
His arm around the neck of his companion —
A wild reindeer staggered by sunlight.
His hair was bleached, his skin blistered.
He saw the woman in wide silk trousers
Come out of the door at the foot of the stairs,
Sit on a cushion and stretch her right hand for a hammer.
She hammered the dried, broad beans one by one,
While the swallows timed her, swinging side to side:
The hard skin fell away, and the left hand
Tossed the bean into the big brass pot.
It would surely take her all day to do them all.
She saw the child watching, her face did not change.

A light wind fled over them
As the witch died in the high tower.
She knew her child in that moment:
His body poured into her vision
Like a snake pouring over the ground,
Like a double–mouthed fountain of two nymphs,
The light groove scored on his chest
Like the meeting of two tidal roads, two oceans.

- Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova

Katerina Plotnikova

The art above is: "Gerda and the Reindeer" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953);  a photograph by Katerina Plotnikova, "Gerda and the Reindeer" drawing (1913, artist unknown);a detail from a painting by Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942);"The Horned Man," a sculpture by Wendy Froud; a reindeer photograph; and two more images by the Russian surrealist photographer Katerina Plotnikova. The poem above, "The Girl Who Married the Reindeer," is copyright c 1995 by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin; all rights are reserved by the author. The poem first appeared in The Southern Review (Autumn 1995), and was subsequently reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts and the author's collection The Girl Who Married the Reindeer (Gallery Press, Ireland).

PLEASE NOTE: There are so many responses to this post that Typepad has broken them into two pages. Be sure to click on the "Show More Comments" link at the end of the first page (which is easy to miss) in order to see the lastest poetry additions.

Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 3

The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

Today, I'm looking for poems based on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Matchgirl, The Tinderbox, The Nightingale, and so forth. Choose which ever tale you want, just make sure it's Andersen's and not someone else's (like Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm).

The poem I've posted below, for example, was inspired by HCA's "The Princess and the Pea."  (But poetry based on any Andersen tale is welcome, you needn't stick this one.)

A full list of Andersen's fairy tales can be found here. My article on HCA's fascinating life can be found here.

The rules of the Challenge are listed in the first post in this series; if you are new to the Challenge, please read them before you post.  Thank you, once again, to everyone who has contributed poetry so far; and also to all the lovely readers who have taken the time to give the poets their feedback. Your generosity is overwhelming. 

To start us off today, here's Joseph Stanton's wry and utterly charming take on "The Princess and the Pea." Joe is the author of Imaginary Museum and other wonderful works of poetry and prose. The Princess and the Pea by Gennady SpirinHe teaches at the University of Hawai'i at Mano.

 Princess and the Pea

The extremity of her sensitivity
impressed a richly idle princely family,
of her discomfort, bothered as she had to be

by the absurd softness of the ample beddings,
not to mention the pillow piles aggravating
her much lamented acrophobic dis-ease.
As years passed by, she taught her king

how a board under the mattress aids the spine
and keeps it straight and ready for laughter.
Under her guidance, both wise and refined,
the kingdom prospered, happily ever after.

- Joseph Stanton


(Other fairy-tale-inspired poems by Joe can be read here, here, and here.)

The Princess and the Pea by Eugenio Recuenco

A Portrait of Hans Christian Andersen by Constantin Hansen, 1836

The Princess and the Pea art above is by the French illustrator Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), the Russian illustrator Gennady Spirin, and the Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco. The portrait of Hans Christian Andersen is by the "Dutch Golden Age" painter Constantin Hansen (1804-1880). The poem above, "Princess and the Pea,"  first appeared in The Journal of Mythic Arts, copyright c 2006 by Joseph Stantion; all rights are reserved by the author.