Enchanted Creators: Kristen Baum DeBeasi’s Refrigerator Magnet Poetry
The idea of writing poetry may call to mind the image of an isolated artist bent over a notebook trying to permanently anchor ideas with drops of ink, but Enchanted Creator Kristen Baum DeBeasi has found a way to bring poetry into the heart of the home by combining deep thoughts and lighthearted word play as she creates fairy-tale themed magnetic poems to grace her kitchen refrigerator.
Kristen, who holds a Master’s in Music Theory and Composition, lives in Los Angelos where she plays the piano and composes scores for movies and concerts. She has also studied Writing for the Youth Market at UCLA, taken classes at The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, and attended several poetry workshops where she has fallen in love with the idea of composing with words. Kristen has generously agreed to share more about her creative endeavors with Enchanted Conversation readers:
How did you get started writing Refrigerator Poetry?
Years ago, my fantastic aunt gifted me a set of magnetic words, and I have come across fridge magnets at collaborative writing retreats, but I got started during lockdown. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, and the house was magically shrinking, so, I went online and ordered several different magnetic word sets so I could mix and match them. For two months I stared at my refrigerator door moving magnets around, learning the limitations and possibilities.
What is your process for writing Refrigerator Poetry?
I let inspiration percolate until I get specific ideas. Sometimes I take notes and other times I go straight to the magnets. Once I start building a poem, the process unfolds in spontaneous writing bursts. Phrases bubble up in my mind and get sorted out. I like plays on words, double meanings, and pointing to things and saying, “Look! What’s up with that?” and, “Why do we subscribe to that concept?”
Fairy Tales feature heavily in your creative work. What is it about fairy tales that inspires you create?
Fairy tales provide a strong through line in all my creative work, and I have completed a full-length middle-grade manuscript of a Pied Piper retelling. Fairy tales give me the safety to point at things happening today through a “once upon a time” lens. One example is the tale of Donkeyskin which features a plot that we don’t want to think can still happen. When I compose my refrigerator poetry, the magnets give me permission to be brief, while the fairy tale subject matter gives me permission to test the limits of the comparisons I’m making. This sets my imagination free within the confines of the words on my fridge so I can create poems that are outrageous, outraged, silly, or ironic.
Have you ever worked with an obscure fairy tale that is less known?
The more obscure fairy tales I’ve worked with include The Goose Girl and The Fisherman and His Wife. When I worked with The Fisherman and His Wife, I wanted to explore the idea of “serious” fish stories by Hemingway and Melville against the cultural tendency to consider fairy tales a less serious art form. So, I created a poem that points to the “fishiness” of that hierarchy.
Your work often features words and phrases around the borders of your poem that meaningfully interact with the poem’s message. What inspired you to try this innovative form and what is the effect that you hope to achieve through your artful arrangement of extra words and phrases?
I have always had an irreverent streak. When I was a child, it repeatedly got me into trouble! My fridge poems have given me an outlet for this irreverence. As I build each of these poems, I think of every phrase I can imagine relating to the poem’s subject matter. Then, as the poem comes into focus, some of those phrases don’t fit—or they never fit to begin with. They just made me giggle as I was creating the poem. The extra phrases function as my Greek Chorus (if a Greek Chorus were comprised of sassy fairies who like pointing out things in our society that are weird or off or funny). It’s a shift of the lens on our world that I’m interested in.
So, I leave silly things in the margins—things that didn’t make it into the poem. Now people look for those extra words and phrases. My first hope is that they surprise and delight readers. I also want to provoke thought, especially if the poem’s focus is on current issues or things that are close to my heart. I want to draw attention to things that seem messed up in our world by placing them in fairy tales, which I believe amplifies the issues and lifts them up to scrutiny from a new perspective. I hope that new perspective makes people laugh because it’s unexpected. And through that, I hope it stays with them and they begin to think of our world—this realm, whatever it is (are we already in fairy land?) as important.
Kristen likens her refrigerator poetry to the sand mandalas created by Tibetan monks which emphasize the process of creation rather than the final product. Composing through magnetic letters allows her to embrace the ephemeral nature of poetry because each fridge poem must be deconstructed so that its pieces become the building blocks of new poems.
Kristen was kind enough to debut a brand-new fridge poem below entitled “here’s looking at a power struggle kid” for Enchanted Conversation readers! The poem offers a playful and poignant look at a conversation between the Evil Queen and her Magic Mirror. You can find out more about Kristen’s work on her writing website kbdebeasi.com and you can purchase the magnets she uses for her compositions at MagneticPoetry.com (they even feature a Brothers Grimm edition). We hope Kristen inspires you to participate in the joy of creation by writing your own fairy tale inspired refrigerator poems!
Kelly Jarvis teaches classes in literature, writing, and fairy tale at Central Connecticut State University, The University of Connecticut, and Tunxis Community College. She lives, happily ever after, with her husband and three sons in a house filled with fairy tale books. She is also Enchanted Conversation’s special project’s writer.