Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann, review by Melissa Fox
Feminism has been a hot-topic (at least in the circles I travel in online) lately. From the YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, to Beyonce's performance at the VMAs or Emma Watson's speech at the UN, there seems to be a renewed interest in the idea of gender equality.
This is the perfect time, then, for Christine Heppermann's collection of 50 poems, Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, my Pretty. Hepperman takes the issues of the day -- anorexia, photo-shopping, everyday sexism, and harassment, among others -- and superimposes them on fairy tales. All the classics are there, from Cinderella to Hansel and Gretel, in recognizable, yet new and fresh forms.
It's empowering to rethink and retell stories that have been a part of culture for so long, to give them And Heppermann recognizes this. In her author's note she writes, "My advice? Retell your own stories. Keep pushing your way through the trees and I promise you that, eventually, you will come to a clearing. And then you can dance." These poems are just that: a reclaiming of stories that we, as readers, have become indifferent to. Heppermann keeps the the whimsical (and sometimes dark) nature of the fairy tales and weaving in a modern sensibility, depth, and humor.
In my favorite poem, "Retelling", Heppermann imagines what would have happened if the miller's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin had not gone along with the grand plan of her father:
"No, I won't give you my necklace.
No, I won't give you my ring.
No, I can't give you the child. The child will never exist.
End of story."
Once upon a time, there was a miller's daughter
who got a studio apartment.
Took classes during the day,
waited tables at night.
And when customers asked what's in the gravy on the
rump roast sandwich,
it's the best thing they'd ever tasted,
she winked, and said,
The poetry itself is compelling enough on its own, but each poem is paired with black and white photographs that perfectly compliment both the fanciful nature of the poems as well as the deeper, more complex issues behind them. It's all weird and strange, and oh, so wonderful.
I immediately (even before I finished) found myself wanting to share these poems with my children, who then took the book to school and passed it among their friends -- both boys and girls alike. The result was a resounding "YES. THIS."
Posioned Apples is definitely a poetry collection for today's teens (and adults). One that will be able to resonate with everyone.