Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 2013 Challenge: Fairy Tale Poems

Fairy (or folk) tales that circulate in popular culture over centuries provide interesting prompts for poetry, art and music. Most ancient folk tales exist in a variety of versions. You may have seen the Disney version of a folk tale—and noticed talking birds that didn’t appear in the version your mother read to you at bedtime. In the opera, Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (see, the gingerbread men come to life. In poems based on folk tales, sometimes the story is just retold in verse. Other poets modernize the story, as, for instance, giving it a feminist twist. The poet may use satire or humor. The story may be retold from the perspective of the witch or wolf. Or the poem may have a serious message related to a social issue or historical event.

Here are three contemporary fairy tale poems:

Cinderella Entertains a Daring Idea

With supper dishes done,  
Cinderella grows tired   
of waiting for the Good  
Fairy to come and wave   
her starry wand, turning rags   
into ball gowns, glass slippers   
on bare feet. No need  
for gilded pumpkins.  
She would settle for a living   
wage, better hours,  
time-and-a-half for overtime.  
Alone, Cinderella (fed up with living  
in an exile of dust bins  
and breakfast crumbs) stands  
before the hearth and refuses   
to sweep the ashes or rinse   
out her sisters' bloomers,  
leaving the latter to billow like ghosts  
in a bucket of their own dirty water.  
She dares to imagine a union  
of broom-wavers, seven abreast   
in the streets. Swept away   
in a start by a sharp rebuke   
from the other room.  
And she finds herself back   
in the cottage on Stepmother Lane    
where she gathers herself   
from her palette of straw  
humming "We Shall Overcome"   
in a resolute chorus of one. 

~ Nina Corwin

"Cinderella Entertains a Daring Idea," from The Uncertainty of Maps by Nina Corwin © 2011, CW Books, CIncinnati, Ohio. Used by permission of author and publisher. This book can be purchased through (

Hansel and Gretel

When mother read me  
Hansel and Gretel  
I could not believe  
even a witch   
would bake a child.

Even as we read  
thousands of children  
were tossed into ovens,  
small shoes, shirts,  
dresses, pants    
stripped away, piled up  
and the last toy  
to which small hands  
clung for comfort  
pried from reluctant  

~ Wilda Morris

Published in On the Dark Path: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry, ed. Anita M. Barnard (13 Moons Press, 2013), p. 48. This book can be purchased via The official release of the book will take place on May 11, 2013, in Dallas, Texas. For more information, see

Little Red

Life is not the same   
since the wolf showed his face.   
I no longer dally  
along the path picking daisies,  
finding sheep or dogs   
in the nimbus clouds,  
whistling the song of robin  
or cardinal. Seldom   
do I traverse the route alone  
and never at night. He comes  
in my dreams, his hot breath   
on my neck, or on grandmother's,  
his cackling laughter, his leer   
saying more than his lips,  
his sharp teeth ready to cut holes  
in my sanity. At home, sheep,  
goats, even my own border collie,  
take on some aspect of the elongated  
chin, deep-set eyes, teeth or tongue   
of that wolf. Though safe, I shudder.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem, with some slight changes, has been published several times. It was first published in The Homestead Review (Fall/Winter 2006), p. 25. It also appears in two anthologies. They are: Bleed Me a River: A Domestic Violence Anthology, ed. David S. Pointer (forthcoming from Westview, Inc. (To purchase this book, see or check it out on and On the Dark Path: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry, ed. Anita M. Barnard (13 Moons Press, 2013), p. 49.

Fairy Tale Poems on the Internet:

A collection of poems based on fairy tales published in The Journal of Mythic Arts can be found at Unfortunately, the journal is no longer published.

The Portal to Fairy Poems is found at This list of links was posted by A. J. (Alicia) Ponder.

You can find links to several fairy tale poems, including one by Amy Lowell and one by William Butler Yeats, at

“Fat is Not a Fairy Tale,” by Jane Yolen - (from Such a Pretty Face (Meisha-Merlin Publishing, Inc., 2000).

“The Wolf’s Postscript to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’,” by Agha Shahid Al - From his book, A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (SUN-Gemini Press,1987).

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” by Anne Sexton, From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Company,1981).

“Cinderella,” by John Dickson,!/20594633. From Poetry (July 1983). You can access other Cinderella poems from Poetry at Put other fairy tale names (such as “red riding hood” in the search box at the top of the page to find other fairy-tale poems from the archives.

“Fairy-Tale Logic,” by A. E. Stallings - From Poetry (March 2010).

“Here come the Fairy Tales,” by Brenda Williams -

There are a number of YouTube videos of fairy tales reconsidered in verse by Roald Dahl. You can access one of them here: They are from Dahl’s book, Revolting Rhymes.

Fairy tales enter into the lyrics of Amy Grant’s song, “Fairytale.” The lyrics are posted at

If you still want more, search the Web!
The May Poetry Challenge:

After reading the example poems above, and perhaps following some of the links to fairy tale poems on the Internet, write your own poem based on, twisting, modernizing or in some way making use of a fairy tale from your childhood. If you are not from the U.S., you may use a folk tale from your own culture; in that case, please include in your email a link to that story on-line (in English), or send a summary of the story with your poem.

Poems must be in English. Your poem can be free verse or formal. If formal, please specify the form. Please submit only one poem during any particular month.

The deadline is May 15. Poems submitted after the May 15 deadline will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

Due to formatting difficulties, I prefer that poems be left justified and not have indentations or spaces in the middle of lines.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. Be sure provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem. If you wish, you may submit a brief bio or link to your website (if you have one), in case your poem is selected as a winner.

© 2013 Wilda Morris