June 24, 2011

Snow White Poetry Issue

Will Snow White Ever Learn?

It's June according to the calendar, but in the land of Enchanted Conversation, it's cold and treacherous and filled with revenge. It's the "Snow White Poetry Issue," and it's very clear that our poets have read, and were inspired by, the ancient, dark versions of "Snow White."

We let our chosen works speak for themselves, but we have some treats coming up in the next few weeks, including a paper by scholar John P. Pazdziora.

But for now ...

Diary of a Mad Dwarf, By Katrina Robinson

Forging the Iron Clogs, By Sarah Stasik

Snow White in Russia, By Ace G. Pilkington

Reflections: The Mirror Speaks, By Julia H. West

Snow, Blood, Ebony, By Rachel Ayers

Beauty on the Lam, By Candace L. Barr

Remember Winter, By Deborah Walker

Three Glass Shards, By Lorraine Schein

Night of Snow, By Mary Meriam

Pale Quarry, By Frances McQuillan

The Magic Mirror's Reflection, By Adina Rosenthal (at Diamondsandtoads.com)

Diary Of A Mad Dwarf, By Katrina Robinson

They all got it wrong -
every book, movie and play.
That’s what happens
when someone else tells your story.
They had us
whistling and working,
smiling and bowing,
shucking and jiving
- a minstrelsy of midgetry.
They grasped our truth in their hands,
stripped away our dignity.
Then, re-covered us in colorful, comical garbs,
re-christened us with colorful, comical names.
No one cares how it really was.
How we worked from dawn to dusk
carving out a livelihood
from harsh, unforgiving stone.
How we found a large, pale child
lounging in our beds
and eventually, looming over our heads.
How each day we looked up to her
and felt her presence in every crevice.
How she made us not fit
in our own home.
No one cares about the difficulty of keeping
a stubborn, mule-headed girl alive
when she ignores every warning
and opens the door
time and time again.
But, don’t listen to me.
Read the books,
watch the movies and plays.
Look at how they portray us –
Tiny people only living to please,
paying court to some displaced princess
that stumbled onto our doorstep.
Still, it’s over now.
We survived the reality
and later, we survived the lies.
We got our home back,
and we became ourselves again.
Secure in our skin,
Re-settled in our place.
And she has her own place now-
a palace, with servants and a prince.
She still hasn’t invited us over.

Katrina Robinson is a freelance writer from Aylett, VA. Her publishing credits include V Magazine for Women and Norton's Hint Fiction Anthology. Her poem, "Beauty," appeared in the Beauty and the Beast issue of Enchanted Conversation.

Forging The Iron Clogs, By Sarah Stasik

It’s always the blacksmith who does these things,
as if metal and magic go together.

You learn to be quiet
and hear no evil--only the ping-ping bang
of metal on metal,
and the hiss of the boil in the water.

But when pale to-be queens
with ebony eyes
commission such objects with hatred,
you can’t help but hear
the history that’s spilled
through apple red lips with a whisper.

And you know that you’ll tell,
not today, but tomorrow…
how the fairest of all in the land
ordered the clogs
to be made for a dance
that would last ‘til the wearer was

Sarah Stasik writes from a crooked mountain in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and son.  Visit her blog at http://www.letters-to-the-cosmos.blogspot.com/ to read some random thoughts and find out more about her writing.

Snow White In Russia, By Ace G. Pilkington

They weren’t dwarfs but heroes,
So Pushkin said, and he should know.
With horses leaping high and far, touching
Earth so seldom that even Pegasus
Would be lost in their inevitable dust.
Bogatyrs, heroes, knights without the baggage,
Of castles, jousts, and generations of inherited rage,
They were power and honor, truth in a sword’s thrust.

Now, a Queen should know better than to trust
Her face and fate to a magic mirror. What do
Mirrors know of beauty and its inexorable passage
From bud to bloom to petals blown by age
Into nothingness, to fragrant memories of lust
And love and all the flowerings gone too soon:
Like silver ripples in water, a mirror for a moon
That changes as it sweeps through night’s star fields.
Leaving only a yellowed memory of the light it yields.

That must be why she became jealous of a child.
Snow White’s face was only the promise of beauty; reality
Was still a decade away, and all the fierce and wild
Chances of growing up waited to stain and scar that lovely
Future. So, send the girl to a tsar in the thrice ninth
Kingdom, so far to the golden East that the sun shines
From the doorstep of his palace, and forget what she might
Have been in the dim mists of distance, lost in the light
Of other days and places.  Break the mirror and be free.

But the Queen was caught by green envy, by pale jealousy,
By hatred so deadly she sent her daughter to death in the wood.
And when the huntsman could not shed that childish blood,
The Queen distilled a potion from maternity, her bitter breath
Making an elixir whose slightest brush with the lip brought death,
And kept on killing, so that when the bogatyrs sought to raise
Snow White with the water of life from her unnatural grave,
She did not rise but died again. Then, she was almost alive, a slow
Struggle between poison and salvation, blow and counter blow.

Behold Snow White in a crystal coffin, placed there by the heroes,
Who grieved and watched, wept and looked on helplessly while
A battle they could not win or even join raged inside the life
They could not reach but loved—each of them—beyond his own.
Still, the little girl grew up inside that crystal.  In some strange
Universe of pain, the hated daughter grew older and more magical.
The white and red and ebony of her beauty were rearranged
Into a youth more lovely than the summer sea or first snowfall
On the golden leaves of birch trees.  Suddenly, the world changed.

The Queen with a shudder in her castle home
Said, “Mirror, mirror on my wall of stone
Say that no other’s beauty can match my own.”
The mirror, shimmering in candle light, replied,
“Oh Queen as lovely as the sun in the West
The princess has grown fairer in death
Than you are with your happiest breath.”
And the queen sank to her knees and sighed,
“I will give her life again. Then, she must truly die.”

There was a tsar’s son who granted the Queen her chance.
This tsarevich haunted the coffin, more a specter than
The half-dead girl within.  To him secretly, the Queen
Gave a silver sword to shatter crystal and a spell only
She held:  “My daughter will rise with a kiss from your lips.
But first your lips must touch mine so a mother’s wish
May bless your desire.” Thus, an antidote with the power
Of the poison moved from mouth to mouth to mouth,
And Snow White came to life and love and wedding in an hour.

See the wedding guests laughing, drinking, singing their joy,
And then the Queen appears—beautiful, terrible, a figure of hate
And love, of longings lost in childhood and fears much greater
Than the tears a monster could inspire.  The tsarevich smiles, a boy
In innocence and ignorance, he doesn’t know, but the bogatyrs
Understand why the Queen is here.  They kill women and men
Equally when necessary.  What should they use this time, spears
Or swords, bows or Christian whips, perhaps enchanted weapons
Would be best.  Then Ilya decides, “Drag her to the open steppe.”

Holding her white hands and feet, they tie her to three horses,
Wild as wind.  Then Ilya strikes to scatter them on a course
Wide and unpredictable.  There is the glimmer of a hand,
A leg, the body torn and battered, too terrible to understand
Except by looking in her face, ugly with all she had become.
The last expression of poison and defeat, the cumulative sum
That made the Queen herself is still reflected by her mirror—
The staring eyes, the twisted mouth, the inescapable inner horror.

Ace G. Pilkington is an active member of the SFWA, and co-editor and translator of Fairy Tales of the Russians and Other Slavs.  His poems have appeared in five countries and sixty publications, including Asimov’s, Amazing, Weird Tales, The Christian Science Monitor, Poetry Wales, and Poetry Australia.

Reflections: The Mirror Speaks, By Julia H. West

The wizards who created me,
From rare electrum, polished sleek,
Made also my fair twin
That through us they might speak.
Then manufactured two-score more,
The size a lady's hand might hold,
To scatter through the realm
And watch events unfold.

I hung upon one wizard's wall,
Learned secrets of his arcane trade,
And watched the scenes my kin
Reflected and displayed.
Until my wizard's colleague fell--
Killed in some petty noble's scheme.
That day my mirror twin
Was given to the Queen.

My twin hung in the king's great hall;
I witnessed balls and trials and courts.
My wizard noted all,
Impatient for reports.
Those secrets, overheard, brought wealth:
The wizard died from his excess.
I passed then to a witch--
Great beauty she possessed.

"Am I the fairest of them all?"
She watched the kingdom's ladies preen.
With spell and potion's aid
Her beauty was supreme.
Thus I could state most honestly
(For I was made to never lie)
That she was fairest still
Of all whom I did spy.

Until the day my mirror twin
Showed me the princess as she passed:
White skin, black hair, red lips.
The witch her question asked,
And Snow White's loveliness outshone
The false lure magic gave to her.
Regretfully I said,
"The princess is most fair."

If only those who molded me
Had let me choose to hold my tongue,
For spilling truth has doomed
A girl naive and young.
I watch the witch shape spells and charms
To make the princess hers by right;
Her jealousy requires
The death of fair Snow White.

Julia H. West has had fantasy and science fiction stories published in several magazines and anthologies, including REALMS OF FANTASY. She has a degree in anthropology, and is a life-long reader of folk tales from many cultures.

Snow, Blood, Ebony, By Rachel Ayers

He found her dead
and woke her.

Snow, blood, ebony:
these evoke only the
lifeless child he beheld.

He reimagines his bride.

Her lips are posey red,
rosy red,
for although flowers are fleeting
they live

as he brought her back to life.

Her skin is milkpale moonglow.

And black is:
the deep pool
of his horse's eye

the well
of night sky

the depths of earth
from which all life springs.

These gifts he gives her as they wed:
a second chance,
and his heart,
still beating.

Rachel tells us: "I have a Creative Writing major from Pittsburg State University.  My novelette "Sister and Serpent" won Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and my story "Job Hunting" won First Prize in the 2010 HarperCollins Radiant Prose contest.  My work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Isabelle Rose's Twisted Fairy Tale Anthology volumes 1 and 2 (Wicked East Press), Bull Spec, Living With the Dead: Year One, Death Rattle, and A Thousand Faces."

Beauty On The Lam, By Candace L. Barr

A lost child tramps through the woods
Delivered from death by her executioner
Perhaps into the waiting jaws of a beast
And a more gruesome end.
No mother to care, and what of her father
And his supreme power over the land?

Seven harborers cannot save
A young fugitive from herself;
Childish innocence and pretty trinkets
Outweigh safety and self-preservation.

Twice she trusts in the beauty of objects.
Twice her diminutive saviors
Bring her back from Paradise
Third time's the curse!

Dirt cannot cover vanquished beauty,
And all must see her to mourn
Until morbid fascination moves her
From one resting place to another
And accidentally dislodges the fatal fruit.

The young nomad is restored
To her former place in a new society,
And vain curiosity punishes a failed murderess
With deadly footwork.

Candace is a graduate of the Howard University Spanish program who enjoys mythology and other forms of didactic storytelling.  When she isn't reading and writing, she is playing with yarn and fiber.

Three Glass Shards, By Lorraine Schein

Author's note: This poem was inspired by the “Ten Partings” poems of the medieval Chinese woman poet, Xue Tao.

1.  The Window Shard

The Queen looked out the window and sighed--
she was waiting still for her lover to come by.
He’d throw a pebble at the pane when he arrived.
She hoped to have a girl with his dark eyes.

When the King was traveling or with court matters occupied,
they would sweet tryst in this high room all the while.

She knew she was bearing the Huntsman’s child.
His hair was as black as a forest night,
his knife at the hip, red with blood shiny as glass,
as he’d come to her in the white moonlight.

Now the window she used to sit by to await him is broken.
A heavy tree branch shattered it in a violent snowstorm.
One pointed shard lies on the floor of the boarded-up tower room--
no more a medium for reflections on his love,
or daydreams of her child to be;
and unable to show the face she once yearned to see.

2.    The Mirror Shard

When it told her Snow White was the fairest,
the Evil Queen had shattered the Mirror.

Now it lays on her chamber’s floor,
silvers scattered and bent,
whispering to itself in jagged fragments,
telling the truth to her vain ears no more.

Each sliver, thin-edged with her blood like a gilt-border,
shines, as snow falls white as fine cambric to embroider
against the hard ebony sky of winter.

She does not know that her Mirror
had been forged by and instilled
with the dwarfs’ magic will.

3.    The Coffin Shard

The seven had thought Snow White dead,
but she could still hear and see,
though make no motion.

 She thought she saw her mother in the glass overhead
—but was it only her own face’s reflection?

Her mother was smiling at her.
“You will live again and be happy,” she said.

And it came true: after the apple fell from her mouth,
she woke and left with the prince to wed.

The coffin in the forest was abandoned to decay.
But the king’s men came across it
while hunting there years later, one day.

It had become covered with moss and with brambles overgrown;
a home to crawling­­­­­ insects and woodland mice.

Now the glass has been splintered by heavy snow.
It gleams split by moonlight, capped with white ice,
and strewn like wild roses on the forest floor--
bed and prison for the Queen’s dreamed child no more.

Lorraine Schein is a New York poet and writer whose work has appeared recently in Strange Horizons, Witches & Pagans and in Alice Redux, an anthology about Alice in Wonderland. Her poetry book, The Futurist’s Mistress, is available from mayapplepress.com.

Remember Winter, By Deborah Walker

The lean hare leaping across the white sky.
The sun riding high and small and bright,
shine on layers of snow, flakes accumulate,
into this old,  this deep coldness

I never knew I would feel this.
Spring, summer, autumn, and
then the winter.
I fell though time,
 my fate a rolling, turning ball of ice.

Three times I bound my daughter.
First with coloured strings,
tying her to her childhood,
so tight she could not breathe,
 Then I pulled the shell comb through her hair,
My teeth were poison-needle sharp
I'd get into her head,
 if I couldn't have her heart.
The third was the offer of flesh, red-ripe with promise.
She bit it eagerly remembering Eve,
the taste of sweet, awaiting knowledge.
Forgetting that old Eve now sits with her raven,
in the cave, alone.

I knew you then, my daughter, maid of spring.
Innocence and dreaming.
Pure and perfect.
Monumental maiden preserved in glass.
I knew that that all things turn
 on the cycle the seasons bring
White-armed Persephone leaving
behind the four seeds in the barren ground. 

Daughter, you shed my poisoned gifts,
Will you remember winter,
as you call for the shoes of hot iron?
 I will dance, and I will be glad,
for I long to feel some warmth.

But daughter, remember winter, for she will come again.

Deborah's poetry has been published in Enchanted Conversation, Mirror Dance, and Dreams and Nightmares. She lives in London with her partner and two young children. She blogs sporadically at Deborah Walker's Bibliography

Night of Snow, By Mary Meriam

She lives, more lovely than sweet dreams,
Red berry lips, black hair that streams
In tender breezes through the night
Lit by starlight and pure snow white.

Meanwhile, her mother sits and schemes
Suffocating in her screams
At her own beauty’s furious flight,
Old age’s creeping, seeping blight.

She is the Queen, and her regime’s
A bloody plot of swift extremes.
Her daughter’s heart would taste just right.
She opens wide and takes a bite.

Through woods and thickets of thorny themes,
Snow stumbles through a night that teems
With lurking lowlife. Shot by fright,
She runs, and running, learns to fight.

Finally through the gloom there beams
The warm and friendly homelike gleams
Of seven gems. They are polite;
Snow’s safe and snug at last? Not quite.

The lonely door has lost its seams,
Squeaks open for a witch who seems
Kindly, but murders with all her might,
To be the only belle in sight.

The tables turn again. Fate deems
The daughter live. The mother steams
In oven shoes, dancing her spite
To death, ever bitter and tight.

Mary Meriam’s poems have appeared recently in the New York Times, Poetry Foundation, American Life in Poetry, Mezzo Cammin, Measure, Light, Think, Sentence, and Rhythm. She is the author of The Countess of Flatbroke (Modern Metrics, 2006) and The Poet's Zodiac (Seven Kitchens, 2011).

Pale Quarry, By Frances McQuillan

When he catches her, he finds
that she is greatly under-fed.
There are no roses on her cheeks
although her lips are bitten red.

Great are her foes; she has not bled.
For all their spite, she is not dead.

He kills a deer in Snow White’s stead.
Her death undone remains unsaid.

Knowing not where she’s been led,
far from the paths that hunters tread
the child away from home is fled.
Pale and dark and apple-red.

Frances McQuillan is currently studying English and French at University College Dublin. She once named a dog Chaos, which had consequences which were narratively appropriate.

June 23, 2011

And The Enchanted Conversation Mini Writing Contest Winner is ...

Pam! Here is her winning entry:

“Idle hands are useless hands.”

How many times had the king said this? The prince had lost count long ago. In his father’s mind, everyone stayed busy. A poor man worked to feed his family. A wealthy prince worked to help others.

The prince thought differently. Why work, when he could spend his days laughing at the court jesters, or drinking mead with his knights?. Life was too short to fritter away with labor.

And those hideous dwarfs! One morning, the king woke him from his slumber and dragged him to the tower window, where they could see the entire kingdom below. The seven mini-men were trundling along, tools swinging at their sides as they sang their happy tunes.

“Off to work they go.” The King would nod sadly.

“They’re so … short,” the prince replied, stifling a yawn.

He hated those dwarfs.

So when the beautiful woman who dwelled with them in their stumpy little cottage bit the apple and took a nap, the prince leapt into action. He kissed her red-wine lips, woke her up and spirited her away. He knew that she’d be eager to leave those frumpy worker-bees and become his wife.

“Take that, shorties,” he chuckled as she waved the dwarfs a hasty farewell.

She couldn’t wait to become his bride. A month after their wedding day, he was shaken out of a sound sleep. He stirred, wishing he hadn’t had that last tanker of mead last night. Now it was Snow White, not his father, who smiled down at him.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Out of bed, Sleepyhead,” she sang. “We’re riding through the kingdom with food for the poor today, remember? The men need your help loading the corn and wheat.”

Sighing, he hauled himself from bed. A prince just couldn’t win.

The staff loved that this entry acknowledged that whomever Snow White was in terms of moral character, she had clearly learned how to work while with the dwarfs. This seems true in almost any version of the "Snow White" story.  Plus, we liked how the people around him believe in diligence. In total, this piece just worked!

Pam, you need to check your email! To the rest of the entrants: You made the judging very difficult. Well done!

June 18, 2011

Judging on EC Mini Contest Will be Done In A Few Days

We plan to pick the winner as soon as possible. The contest is closed.

Thanks for the great entries. It will be a tough decision.

June 15, 2011

You Think We've Forgotten 'Snow White," Don't You?

We haven't! The chosen poems are just about set up, and the cool things we have planned for the look of the issue will be worth the wait.

Plus, a couple more fun and exciting events and changes are in the offing. But I can't tell you yet, because I don't want any fairy jinxes.

Also, something else writers, poets and fans should know: Our submission windows are based on teaching duties staff members have. So often, we require submissions long before we plan to release an issue, so we have time to read, select, find art, find money, pay people, format, etc. I will add that to our submission info!

June 7, 2011

Guest Post: Fracturing Fairy Tales For Fun And Profit, By Heather Talty

Editor's Note: Fracturing fairy tales is one of the most amusing and enjoyable ways to recast the stories. Heather Talty does a terrific job of explaining fracturing in this guest post. Her site is linked to below. Do visit it. It's worth the time.

n some ways, fracturing a fairy tale is just like fixing a car or performing surgery (though the stakes may not be quite as high): you take some things out, put some things in, or just tweak what’s already in there. When you’re done, you’re left with something that looks and acts like the original but isn’t entirely the same.

Of course, this act of altering a traditional story has been done for centuries, by oral storytellers, collection building folklorists, and enterprising animated mice alike. But why fracture a fairy tale? Why take something that clearly works and break it apart and rebuild it with the risk of getting it wrong?

Well, for a laugh. That’s one reason.

Here’s another. Fracturing fairy tales can be a way to engage in a sort of dialogue with the story itself, and of course, with other readers. Just as a scholar might analyze a story, the writer of the fractured fairy tale might write a new one precisely to question interesting or baffling elements of the original. As a writer of fractured fairy tales, I often find myself writing stories to answer questions I have. If the princess of "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body" knows exactly how to defeat the giant, why does she need the prince to carry out the task? Isn’t it interesting that a “true princess,” a la "The Princess and the Pea," must be very finicky, sort of like a cat? By the way, you can read the stories these questions inspired at my site Mythopoetical (http://www.beatrixcottonpants.com/). Right now, if you like. I’ll wait here.

Welcome back.

Let’s take a look at this idea in action. In the introduction to The Rumpelstiltskin Problem (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), Vivian Vande Velde writes that the book emerged out of her realization that the original tale made no sense. Why, she wondered, did the miller make such an outrageous claim about his daughter’s ability? And why did the king believe him? Why did Rumpelstiltskin need a baby, anyway? Each short story in the book is an attempt to answer one or more of these questions. Maybe Rumpelstiltskin wanted to eat the baby. Maybe the whole spin straw into gold thing was just a metaphor, and things got out of hand. Maybe the miller’s daughter was in on it the whole time. Vande Velde also recently released Cloaked in Red, a similar approach to "Little Red Riding Hood."

Gail Carson Levine, too, wrote a few books out of a desire to understand why. Her series of fractured fairy tales, The Princess Tales (Harper Collins, 1999-2002), often work to explain or flesh out fairy tales. She explains her motivations on her website in discussing her book, The Fairy’s Mistake.

It isn’t likely, she posits, that a prince, coming upon a girl “blessed” with an inconvenient habit of spitting up valuable gems, would fall in love with her. More likely, he’s in it for the gems. The Fairy’s Mistake tells the story from that point of view. Her stories often attempt to explain how characters fall in love in fairy tales, or why they decide to undertake various quests (think the Prince’s long trek through the briar patch in "Sleeping Beauty"), giving them back-stories to make more sense.

Through reading these books, and others like them, readers are exposed to both the questions the authors have about fairy tales and possible answers to those questions. But it’s always worth it to try it yourself. Take a fairy tale you love and rewrite it. Then take a step back and read over your own work. You might be surprised at what you learn about your favorite tale, and of course, yourself.