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Transformations Hardcover – Jun 1972


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (Jun. 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395127211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395127216
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 883,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The speaker in this case is a middle-aged witch, me - tangled on my two great arms, my face in a book and my mouth wide, ready to tell you a story or two. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Turner VINE VOICE on 24 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anne Sexton's 'Transformations' was recommended by a friend and I am glad I acted on it. These poems about fairy tale characters - Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin et al, peel away the layers of what you thought you knew, and really resonate. Some will make you laugh and some will disturb you, but they'll stay with you after the book is back on the shelf.
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By Clare Collins on 11 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Disturbing. Sad and funny. Anne suffered a great deal. Not to be read if you are of a nervous disposition.
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Amazon.com: 14 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
A Dark and Lovely Exploration of Fairy Tales 29 April 2003
By Christopher Schmitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have Anne Sexton's complete works, and this book rises above the rest. The fairy tale framework compels more structure and discipline from a poet accustomed to rambling (but often brilliant) confessional observation. It is, in my estimation, her finest work.
Her take on "Snow White" refuses to establish heroines or villains. The girl is a lovely virgin, "cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper...lips like Vin du Rhone." The jealous queen, still beautiful at middle age but fearing that time isn't on her side and informed by her mirror she's no longer "the fairest of them all," tries to kill her. For this, she is punished by torture. The twist here is that Sexton makes it clear that some day the virgin girl will meet the queen's fate: "Meanwhile Snow White held court,/ rolling her china-blue eyes open and shut/ and sometimes referring to her mirror/ as women do."
The lesbian implications of "Rapunzel" are brought to the fore, and the transvestite deception of "Little Red Riding Hood" is remarked on. Sexton crashes the dreamy romance of Cinderella with the mundane reality of marriage. "Happily ever after" is contrasted with "diapers...arguing...getting a middle-aged spread." The Freudian power of mother is accented in the poet's take on "Hansel and Gretel"; Sexton brings out dark implications of child murder and pedophilia that the original tale merely glosses.
Twenty years before Robert Bly tackled the "Iron John" fairy tale, Sexton put her spin on it, stressing the main character's cannibalism and outcast status. She compares the hairy wild man to a string of deeply troubled characters from her imagination. It is here where her poetry reaches the peak of its intensity: "A lunatic wearing that strait jacket/ like a sleeveless sweater, singing to the wall like Muzak.../ And if they stripped him bare/ he would fasten his hands around your throat/ After that he would take your corpse/ and deposit his sperm in three orifices./ You know, I know,/ you'd run away."
Sexton's deep-delving into childhood stories, unearthing the very real and plausible taboos they skirt, is refreshing. Her anachronistic use of modern language (Muzak, for instance) is artful and effective. The best thing about this book, however, is that so much madness and sadness is surmised from such timeless and appealing stories. Happy endings are left intact but with a shadow cast over them. Sexton is a poet of the dark--with no one to save her "from the awful babble of that calling."
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully-crafted fairy tale variations 13 Jun. 2000
By belladena - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In all my readings of fairy tale variations, this has to be one of the best. Anne Sexton takes a grim and twisted approach to the already grim and twisted versions of the Grimm Brothers.
Of course, these poems are simply an extension of Anne Sexton's already established confessional form, but poetry is, first and foremost, an expression of society. These poems fail to remain part of Sexton's inner turmoil. Rather, they mock society and the roles that women are traditionally placed within fairy tales. Anne Sexton, in an example here, uses anachronisms to reach her audience, making references to popular culture.
The Queen Cried two pails of sea water. She was as persistent as a Jehovah's Witness.
Anne Sexton, "Rumpelstiltskin"
Although Sexton's poems are not suitable for an audience of children, they do serve as interesting, even necessary reading, once a child has matured and read beyond the traditional fairy tales that are `suitable' for kids.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Sexton as poet-storyteller, retelling dark fairytales with modern details and personal themes 28 Dec. 2005
By Renee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this remarkable collection of poems, Anne Sexton offers readers seventeen transformations of classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales. As she makes clear in the first poem "The Gold Key", Sexton assumes the persona of the storyteller for this collection, calling herself a "middle-aged witch" with "my face in a book and my mouth wide, ready to tell you a story or two." This device allows her to write about intensely personal topics, such as a sexually abusive father, through the detached voice of a storyteller. The use of fairy tales also provides Sexton with a shared cultural framework that enables her to communicate her own experiences and perspectives in a universal language that readers already understand intimately.

Fairytales have a power few of us realize. The stories shape many of our fantasies as children; they also condition us to accept traditional gender roles as we grow up. I believe that Anne Sexton understood their power and influence. She brilliantly tapped into that power and transformed the tales in a way that forces the reader to look at them with fresh eyes. Before launching into the tales themselves, Sexton set the themes of the stories in a modern or personal context. These connections, along with the interlacing of 20th century details (like soda pop and jockstraps) and her use of modern syntax in the fairy tales made their subversive commentary on the burdens and fears of women in a society shaped by male dominance startlingly clear.

In her transformed tales, Sexton examines the female archetypes they depict: the docile virgin, the wicked stepmother, the aging witch. She also sheds an illuminating, feminist light on the themes of female competition and the idea of happily ever after which pop up often in fairytales. It is significant that Sexton uses the gritty Grimm versions of the tales, instead of the child-friendly Disney versions we grew up with. Their original form reveals the subversive nature and insightful symbolism of the fairy tales, many of which were crafted by women.

While this collection is a departure from Sexton's typical confessional style, the poems of "Transformations" are unabashedly naked and intimately introspective--a wondrous achievement by one of our greatest poets.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Sexton's Transforming Take on Grimm is Fascinating 24 Oct. 1999
By Tori - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I teach Anne Sexton in my freshman College English class and I work specifically from this text because the stories are at once familiar shared traditions and disturbing alterations of those traditions. The 18 year olds I teach, who only know fairy tales from the white-washed Disney versions, are intrigued by these dark and psychological interpretations. For the fairy tale afficianado these poems are a must read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A poet and a soul worth knowing 10 Feb. 2010
By Adelina Prokopiev - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To be a great poet, one must possess the soul of a poet as a prerequisite, and the honesty of a human being who is unafraid of revealing their soul to its essential bareness. Anne Sexton does that with natural and admirable ease.

Perhaps exactly because she possessed those necessary qualities, she was well aware that it takes more than just the beautiful aspects of life, to create poetry that touches forgotten strings in our hearts. Strings that each on their own may produce sounds we would rather close our ears to, but used in the inspired and ingenious way as she does, and as a compilation, sound off with a flare, expressing the opus of Anne's life and resonating within our own hearts and lives. Great poetry turns on "lights" in our minds and awakens dormant feelings in our hearts.

Anne artfully proves that the ugly and the frightful, the ridiculous and the humorous, and not just the beautiful, all find their perfect place in poetry. The creativity and wit of her poems, like facets of a gem, reflect life's elements of joy and anguish, and clearly demonstrate that soul's journey inevitably passes through the muck of life, yet, in the end, and deep in its core, it remains unchanged, in its purity and reflection of the Devine.
In two words:

Great poetry! Anne Sexton, you ARE loved!

Anna Leda
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