I came across Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty when I was looking for a poetry collection to add to my Young Adult Literature syllabus. Marketed as poems for young adult readers, Poisoned Apples delves into the liminal space of fairy tales as a metaphor for adolescence.
The collection is beautifully constructed with visual images to accompany the poems. Heppermann’s poetry is accessible to readers, but also insightful and haunting. There is much to be gleaned beneath the surface of the poems, and the students in my class spent a great deal of time offering readings of the text and illustrations. The collection is prefaced by a poem titled “The Woods” which asks “Where are the fairy tales about gym class / or the doctor’s office or the back of the bus / where bad things also happen?” With this, readers are immediately thrust into the world of contemporary adolescence while continuing to wander through fairy tale traditions.
The collection features several retellings of popular fairy tales and explores ideas about beauty, body image, and gender. Heppermann also engages with legends, plays with different forms of poetry, and focuses on the power of language itself. Many of the poems are humorous, but each carries a scintillating commentary on the pressures of young adult life. Poems that seem simple on the surface provide a sharp bite to those who let the words simmer in their minds. Although marketed toward a Young Adult audience, the poetry is nuanced enough to provide insight and convey wisdom.
If I had an adolescent daughter, I would buy this book for her, but I think the book also has value to those who enjoy contemporary poetry and fairy tale imagery. Some of the poems are printed in white typeface on black pages (to accommodate the accompanying images and illustrations) which can make the small volume difficult to read, and my students recommend a trigger warning for the poems about eating disorders which are heartbreaking, but overall, this is a thought-provoking collection that ends on a hopeful note. In an author’s note at the end of the book, Heppermann advises her readers to “Retell your own stories. Keep pushing your way through the trees, and I promise that, eventually, you will come to a clearing. And then you can dance.”
I love this collection of fairy tale poems and I think you will too! You can purchase the book here.
Kelly Jarvis is the the Assistant Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Mermaids Monthly, Eternal Haunted Summer, Forget Me Not Press, A Moon of One’s Own, The Magic of Us, Corvid Queen, The Chamber Magazine, and the World Weaver Press Anthology Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She can be found at https://kellyjarviswriter.com/