Upcoming readings of KIN S FUR

Here’s where you can hear me read ALL KINDS OF FUR— and learn about the controversial tale from the Brothers Grimm that it’s based on. Come experience erasure, a contemporary form of visual poetry. Copies of my book will be available, and I look forward to talking with you and signing your book.

But– how can a poet like me read such a visual form of poetry like erasure??? For me, readings of ALL KINDS OF FUR are more like performances. More on this in another blog, soon.

 

— 28 June 2018, Thursday. 6:30 pm. At Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers. Farmington, Maine.

I am really looking forward to this reading because I first started going to this bookstore in 1984, when I began, in earnest, my folklore fieldwork in Rangeley, just up the mountain from Farmington.  It was a wonderful break to drive down the mountain to this bookstore and spend delicious hours remembering my life as a reader and writer. Then, in the 1990s when my books / exhibit catalogues on folk arts of the western Maine timberwoods came out, DDG carried them.

Thanks to Kenny Brechner who provides such a vital cultural resource for all of us in the region– readings, partnerships with local schools, special programs for families and children, and much more.

He has copies of my book for sale in the store, now.

 

— 5 August 2018, Sunday. 6:00 pm. Featured poet at the Hugh Ogden Memorial Evening of Poetry, held annually at Ecopelagicion (nature store). 7 Pond Street, Rangeley, Maine. 207-864-2771.

10-13 October 2018 (exact date, time, place TBA). Fall for the Book Literary Festival. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

What an honor to be invited “home” to the university where I taught for 36 years! Our Folklore Studies Program at Mason has partnered with Fall for the Book since at least 2002 and has brought many folklorists–and writers who weave folklore into their works–to this literary festival: Michael Bell on New England vampires, Ray Cashman on Northern Ireland folktales and folk customs, Bill Ellis on many things otherworldly, Elaine Lawless on women escaping violence through silence and story, Elizabeth Tucker on campus ghostlore, and many more.

 

— 18 October 2018. 7:00pm. Featured poet at the Dan Crowley Storytelling Concert at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. Buffalo, New York.

 

Reading KIN S FUR by skype

So, how to talk at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, about my new book ALL KINDS OF FUR if I couldn’t get south from Maine in time?  Skype!

My friend and former English Department colleague Susan Tichy ordered pre-publication copies for her ENGLISH 619 seminar “Book Beasts,” a course for Master of Fine Arts: Poetry students on many contemporary poetry practices—visual and concrete, pulled text, erasure, mesostic and acrostic, constrained and procedural, land-based avant-garde, altered book, and more.

Susan and I have had a lot of adventures in teaching together. In my last decade or so at George Mason–I taught there from 1977-2013, Susan and I co-taught a course for folklorists and creative writers on the English and Scottish Traditional Ballad. And, we’ve done joint presentations, such as the one in Helmsdale, Scotland, at the Timespan Cultural Centre—a marvelous place, well worth a visit to their museum and archives,  and for their programs. At Helmsdale, we combined Susan’s poetry from her forthcoming book with Ahsahta Press (The Avalanche Path in Summer) with my storytelling (“The Black Laird, the Cattleman, and the Mossy Green Boat,” from the telling of the great Scots Traveller storyteller Duncan Williamson) to consider life in the borderlands and on the edge—between land and sea, masculine and feminine bodies, and the human and spirit worlds. You can read more about this presentation here.

This Skype session, though, was very special for me because it was in Susan’s “Book Beast” course of 2007 that I learned about erasure poetry and began writing  ALL KINDS OF FUR. And, I was really looking forward to talking with MFA students who had studied erasure poetry.

Here are Andrew, Shaun, Kayla, Nichole, Whitney, Ann, Caroline, Alexandria, Elspeth (not in the order you see them in the photo). Among this talented group are editors at so to speak, a feminist poetry and art journal housed at George Mason University, and an intern for the University’s annual October literary festival, Fall For The Book:

 

To prepare for class, I wrote out several pages of talking points with questions and topics I thought we might discuss.

I started my presentation by reading from the first pages of the book, in the way that I really like to do: I ask a gentleman to read the story text on the first page and then I read the erasure poem, the words in black font, on that same page. This performance sets up the back-and-forth between the Grimms’ tale and the way All Kinds Of Fur herself is telling her own story. Andrew read his part just perfectly, and we read pages 1 / 2 and 3 / 4.

Here are some the topics we went on to talk about together—

— Why did I keep the words of my source text, the tale of the Brothers Grimm, “ghosted”—present in gray font—on the page, instead of whiting or blacking it out, or making it invisible? I wanted to enact a conversation, a debate on the pages between the Grimms’ version and the tale that a woman—and a survivor of abuse—would tell.

Gray font – source text; black font – erasure poem.

— Why I took a liberty most erasure poets do not: I changed the appearance of my source text. I placed the Grimms’ story text in short lines, similar to the appearance of a poem, rather than leaving it in blocks of prose. I discussed how, as a folklorist” my practice of “ethnopoetics” influenced me. That is, when I “translate” the oral stories I collect into written form for publication, I type the words in lines, with the appearance of poetry, rather than placing words in paragraphs, as blocks of text with the appearance of short stories, novels, or prose. Such lining out of oral tales is “ethnopoetic” practice, begun by poets (such as Jerome Rothenberg), anthropolgists (for example, Dennis Tedlock), and folklorists (most of us, including me).

— What is shape-shifting and how is it reminiscent of writing erasure poetry? Shape-shifting in many folktales (such as “All Kinds Of Fur” and “The Woman Who Married A Bear), in legends of the selkies, and in many more tales reminds us of erasure itself, of changing the shape of words to create new poems.

— How did I find the words for my erasure poems and how did I revise some of the poems? I used my blog post  “Writing KIN S FUR” to discuss my revision process and to show images of my revisions of several poems.

— How did I find the “ending” to my poems? How did I write the last pages? I begin this project not knowing how I would end All Kinds of Fur’s story, and writing erasure itself led me to see what she would say.

— What was my revision process? Did I keep part or all of the chosen text on a page or did I start from the beginning?

— Whitney asked, “Do you think we could we compare writing erasure with translating?” Yes!  When people translated the tale “All Kinds OF Fur,” they used “girl” and erased the agency of the heroine who calls herself “child” to protect herself. Likewise, the use of “she” and not “it.” And “princess” instead of “Königstochter” erases the idea of the king and abuser. (This idea is what scholar Katharine Young wrote in her blurb of my book).

— What work does the inclusion of magic—ashes, chants, charms—do in the book? Why include it?

— What is the sexual symbolism of the spinning wheel? Why is the resonant practice of sorting so important in this and other folktales? I talk about many things, including how sorting is a powerful act of self-definition, for through it we discern who we are at that moment.

And, we ended class with me reading from page 67 / 68 to the end of ALL KINDS OF FUR.

What a fine class! Thanks to Susan Tichy and all of her “Book Beast” students!

One more scene from Helmsdale, Scotland, because it is so beautiful:

Writing KIN S FUR

Here is an example of how I went about writing the erasure poems of my book ALL KINDS OF FUR, published by Deerbrook Editions. I’ll add more detail later, but for now, I hope these images show you glimpses of my process.

I would choose a section of my translation of the Grimms’ tale “All Kinds Of Fur” that I thought might work as a moment of the story. Then, usually, I would “ghost” out the text, put all the words in gray font so I could more easily let words rise in my imagination. (Here, you’ll see, I left the words in black). Then, I’d start writing all around the sheet of paper some of the words I saw available to me, and I’d ask myself if any of them were words that All Kinds Of Fur, herself, would say at this point in the tale:

I’d write several versions of the poem, and often, I’d take the most recent version to my colleagues in the workshop I was attending at George Mason University’s MFA Poetry Program. Here’s what I showed to others in the 2012 Heritage Workshop taught by poet Eric Pankey:

I kept working on this page, and I took it to another workshop session, during the MFA course I was auditing with Susan Tichy on “Sequence, Collage, and Daybook” in 2013. I wanted to think about what sections were working and what sections were not. Here are my notes on what the graduate student poets and Susan said:

I was still unsure of this page. I liked the parallelism and the power I was placing in the domestic, but– if All Kinds of Fur were stalling, could her hands be “fully” hers? So I showed many of the poems to one of my most trusted readers– Susan Tichy. Between us, we decided there were some serious problems with the page, and I knew I needed to rewrite substantial parts of this page and the next. Here are the notes I took from that 2014 conversation:

More writing. And, here are the pages (29/30 and 31/32) as they appear in my book ALL KINDS OF FUR, published by Deerbrook Editions in 2018:

and

I revised the pages–rearranging lines, increasing spaces between some lines–to enact a moment of transformation when All Kinds Of Fur, who has been long “castled,” finds a way to move forward. Her reclaims her ability to read ashes and to use the power of the nutshell once more.

An Interview about KIN S FUR

To listen to my conversation about ALL KINDS OF FUR with Derek Newman-Stille, visit his blog post “An Interview with Margaret Yocom” at “Through The Twisted Woods.”  He has also posted three pages of poems from my book.

Derek, along with his co-contributors Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, administer “Through The Twisted Woods” where you may encounter worlds of fantasy, fairy tale, and science fiction through book reviews, folklore scholarship, art work, and much more. Derek has a particular interest in Disability Studies, especially as it applies to folktale research. To see more of Derek’s work, visit his “Speculating Canada.”

Sara and Brittany, PhD candidates in Folklore Studies at The Ohio State University, founded The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic where they offer online courses about fairy tales, mythology, literature, and more.

The tale “All Kinds Of Fur”

To read what I have written about the Grimm Brothers’ version of the international wonder tale called “Allerleirauh” (“All Kinds Of Fur”), you are welcome to read my book chapter — “‘But Who Are You Really?’ Ambiguous Bodies and Ambiguous Pronouns in ‘Allerleirauh'”as a PDF, here. This book chapter was published in 2012 in the book Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms, edited by folklorists Kay Turner and Pauline Greenhill, and published by Wayne State University Press, as part of their Series in Fairy-Tale Studies. You can order the book Transgressive Tales here.

 

“The Cinderella No One Knows: The Grimm Brothers’ Tale of Incest, Fur, and Hidden Bodies”  —  To hear this talk of mine at the Library of Congress, click here. I discuss “All Kinds Of Fur” and I also read a section of my poems from ALL KINDS OF FUR. (The poems begin at minute-marker 44).

Here’s a summary of the Grimms’ tale “All Kinds Of Fur”:

“All Kinds Of Fur” tells of a princess whose widowed father develops a strong, carnal desire for her. She looks just like her dead mother, he explains, and, after all, her mother forbade him to marry unless he found someone who looked exactly like her. The princess gives her father four impossible tasks:  bring three gowns and a mantle stitched of a piece of fur from each animal in their kingdom. These tasks, alas, prove only too possible. When her father announces their wedding is the next day, she wraps herself in the mantle, covers her face and hands with ashes, places her gowns and three tiny gold treasures in a nutshell, and escapes into the forest. The neighboring king’s huntsmen find her sleeping in the hollow trunk of a tree, call her “All Kinds Of Fur,” and take her to the castle kitchen where she labors for years with the cook, until the king, in search of a wife, holds three balls. She disguises herself as a beautiful woman, dances with the king at the balls, and then disappears into the kitchen to make the king’s midnight soup. She drops one of her gold treasures in his soup bowl each night. During the last ball, he slips a ring on her finger, follows her, removes her fur mantle, and realizes who she is. They marry.

And here’s a place to read the tale “All Kinds Of Fur” (1812 and 1857 Grimm Brothers’ versions, translated by D.H. Ashliman) as well as other versions of the tale from around the world:

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0510b.html

 

 

 

KIN S FUR: Magic and Witches

Magic, Witches, and ALL KINDS OF FUR

30 April 2018. May Eve—Walpurgis Night—is one of my favorite times of the year; so, tonight, it’s only fitting to mention the magic that I’ve written into the erasure poems of ALL KINDS OF FUR

Walpurgis is one of the most dangerous nights of the year—or, one of the nights that offers the most opportunities for magic, depending on how you see things. Six months after Samhain (Hallowe’en), it’s a time when the membrane between human world and the spirit world thins. Much celebrated in many European and Scandinavian countries, it’s a night when spirits roam and humans do well to raise bonfires to protect themselves from—and, perhaps, to acknowledge the presence of spirits—and witches. The name “Walpurgis” was given to this threshold time by the Christian Church who hoped people would celebrate St. Walpurga of England rather than pay attention to the spirits that were said to be abroad on the night before May Day (Beltane).

 

The Grimm Brothers were not over-fond of the spirits, either; they often removed from their tales those details that whispered of pre-Christian beliefs and spirituality. Take a look at the opening of their version of “Cinderella” where they later replaced references to a tree—and all of its magical resonances—with Christian prayers:

(From the first edition of the Grimm tales, 1812) Then the woman became ill, and when she was lying on her deathbed, she called her daughter to her side, and said, “Dear child, I must leave you now, but I will look down on you from heaven. Plant a little tree on my grave, and when you want something, just shake the tree, and you shall get what you want. I will help you in time of need. Just remain pious and good.” Then she closed her eyes and died. (Trans. by D. H. Ashliman)

(From the seventh edition of the Grimm tales, 1857) The wife of a rich man fell ill, and as she felt her end approaching, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said, “Dear child, be good and pious. Then the dear Lord shall always assist you, and I shall look down from heaven and take care of you.” She then closed her eyes and departed. (Trans. By Jack Zipes)

 

For me, though, the heroine of “All Kinds Of Fur,”—a version of “Cinderella”—always had magic by her side. Consider that moment in the story when she, the king’s daughter, prepares to escape from her father who is demanding that she marry him. By some power, she is able to place three whole ball gowns as well as three miniature golden tokens into one tiny nutshell. She tucks the nutshell in her fur mantle, and escapes.

So, in ALL KINDS OF FUR, I highlight the mysterious energies of this young woman.

In my poems, for example, All Kinds Of Fur invokes Hecate, the virgin goddess of the crossroads, and asks for her aid. Then, taking up ashes in her hands, All Kinds Of Fur casts spells. She reads the future in the treasured nutshell that she keeps safe, and near. (Nuts and ashes have their own otherworldly, magical resonances).

Here’s one poem from ALL KINDS OF FUR, for example:

Is she a witch? In the Grimms’ version of the tale, the cook accuses All Kinds Of Fur of being a witch since the bread soup she makes delights the king, over and over again. She is more, though, than a maker of potions. Through her years in the kitchen, trudging about in her mantle of rough furs, she has come to learn the true power of that realm with its great knives and its soaring chimneys whose razor-sharp hooks hold the largest of animal carcasses. She has learned the magic of true transformation.

This mysterious, often overlooked power of the everyday, of the domestic—of the kitchen and the spinning room—is another story, for another time, another blog . . .
____________________________

Here’s a summary of the Grimms’ tale “All Kinds Of Fur”:

“All Kinds Of Fur” tells of a princess whose widowed father develops a strong, carnal desire for her. She looks just like her dead mother, he explains, and, after all, her mother forbade him to marry unless he found someone who looked exactly like her. The princess gives her father four impossible tasks:  bring three gowns and a mantle stitched of a piece of fur from each animal in their kingdom. These tasks, alas, prove only too possible. When her father announces their wedding is the next day, she wraps herself in the mantle, covers her face and hands with ashes, places her gowns and three tiny gold treasures in a nutshell, and escapes into the forest. The neighboring king’s huntsmen find her sleeping in the hollow trunk of a tree, call her “All Kinds Of Fur,” and take her to the castle kitchen where she labors for years with the cook, until the king, in search of a wife, holds three balls. She disguises herself as a beautiful woman, dances with the king at the balls, and then disappears into the kitchen to make the king’s midnight soup. She drops one of her gold treasures in his soup bowl each night. During the last ball, he slips a ring on her finger, follows her, removes her fur mantle, and realizes who she is. They marry.

And here’s a place to read “All Kinds Of Fur” and other versions of the tale from around the world.

 

KIN S FUR

April 27, 2018.  What a joy to tell you that my book of erasure poems — KIN S FUR — has made its way into the world! You can flip through 16 of its pages on my publisher’s website: Deerbrook Editions. And, you can order a copy, as well.

In these poems, I offer a new vision of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm’s controversial “Allerleirauh” (“All Kinds Of Fur”), a lesser-known version of “Cinderella” that opens with incest. Erasing the Grimms’ words to reveal a young woman’s story of her journey to a new, full life, I ask, What would All Kinds Of Fur say if she could tell her own tale? In ALL KINDS OF FUR, the heroine’s words rise.

Erasure is a contemporary poetry-writing practice. Poets begin with a source text of any kind and then “erase” selected words and letters, using one or several methods—such as whiting or blacking out their selections, or “ghosting” them with a gray font. What remains are erasure poems.

In ALL KINDS OF FUR, the tale appears in gray to reveal the erasure poems.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Praise for ALL KINDS OF FUR (from the book’s back cover):

Open this book and enter a world of danger, transformation, and tactical survival—a multi-layered, multi-voiced telling of “Allerleirauh” / “All Kinds Of Fur,” a Brothers Grimm tale you most likely have not met, a “Cinderella” version with incest. In a new translation, Margaret Yocom first brings us this forgotten tale, stocked, as we’d expect, with kings, rings, beasts, and betrayals. She then, through erasure, lures out of its darkness another voice—the voice of All Kinds Of Fur herself, lying hidden within its words. In keeping with traditions of wonder tales, erasure practice poses riddles and embodies paradoxes—adding by subtracting, listening by looking, redrawing the boundaries of author and reader, teller and told. Enter this forest. Voice what you see. Is it sunlight in shadow, or a sudden shadow cutting through light?
Susan Tichy, MFA Poetry, George Mason University

Some tales—the old ones, the magical ones—wander the borderlands between our inchoate unconscious and the day-lit logic of our lives, not to keep those realms separate, but to insure something of our dark interiors leaks up into the measured day and, by the trespass, keeps the fathomless open. Margaret Yocom’s book gives us a new translation of one such tale, demonstrating beautifully how it is desire and fear, care and threat, humility and humiliation, love and grief, are entangled in such ways they might be the source of that knot we call mind. But Yocom does more than give us a tale we’ve always known even if now we’re reading it for the first time. In her erasure of the tale, she shows us that a text, just like our own minds, has its own hidden inner life, and its own unconscious depths, a mind within the mind, a heart within the heart, a hearth within a hearth. It is a magical and necessary vision, one our culture now, in its incessant surfacing, deeply needs—this reminder, that beneath every depth, there is a deeper deep; and beneath every dark, a darker dark. It is in this dark that ALL KINDS OF FUR teaches us to see.
Dan Beachy-Quick, Creative Writing, Colorado State University

These poems are haunted by what Yocom makes invisible by her erasures; what she makes visible has different bones. The incest in the fairy tale variously translated as “All Fur” or “Donkeyskin” shows through the skin without the “s”: kin. I have used these poems in my fairy tale course to introduce students to a tradition whose dark side has been erased, in other ways, by numerous editors and publishers—and which ALL KINDS OF FUR restores. Are we not all, like these fairy tale beings, humanimals?
Katharine Young, Independent Scholar whose specialties include Folklore Studies