Monday, April 6, 2015

National Poetry Month: "Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty" by Christine Heppermann

April is National Poetry Month and fairy tales seem to encourage a lot of poetry in response. While I cannot begin to keep up with the offerings out there, here's something that caught my eye a while back that I thought would be good to share.

Please note: I have NOT seen this book in person, nor read much more than what I could scour online, so this is really more of an announcement rather than a review. 

"Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty" (released in September 2014) says exactly what's it's about in the title. Author Christine Heppermann expresses the world of young adults trying to deal with body image, self love, media messages, who they really are as opposed to whom they believe they should be and relationships of all kinds. In other words, it has something for everyone. 

The book contains fifty poems (very easy to read if you're not a poetry person too), along with photography that is sometimes modern, sometimes symbolic, created for the volume, providing another window into these ideas, or a reflection on the same. While girls will clearly identify with many of the issues and sentiments explored here, most of those apply to boys too. It's just that we forget that when the image is a girl with a red hood...

Christine Heppermann's collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny, and heartbreaking." 
Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.
The book has been labeled 'feminist', as well as 'caustic' and emotive'. From a review by cecildaily:
One poem reflects on the modern day version of a love charm: “Such spells call for ingredients / missing from my cupboard” it laments. Modern love charms, it explains, do not require “eye of newt” or “tongue of toad,” but instead “plump lips” and “smooth skin.”Another poem shows that once Sleeping Beauty realizes all the things that go into being a girl, “showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning,” she thinks how much easier it was to be asleep. The poems all illustrate how humans are often told to strive for perfection and how damaging that can be for our self-esteem.
I'm also adding some reviews that reflect my impressions on reading the little I did, and am including screenshots of the Author's Note. I think the latter will be of special interest to fairy tale folk here who've done more than average reading of fairy tales and texts, and know whom she's referring to when she mentions Marina Warner:
“It’s a bit of a mystery how a slender, subversive book of flayed fairy tale poetry can chronicle how the world tries to rob young women of power, while at the same time handing them back that power. Teen girls should read this—so should their mothers, their aunts, their grandmothers…” (Gayle Forman, author of the New York Times-bestselling Just One Day/Just One Year duet) 
“A bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.” (-- E. Lockhart, author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and We Were Liars) 
“Many of the poems read like something you might find on a smart, funny contemporary women’s website, probably going viral. . . . They each pack their own literary punch; she is, after all, a poet riffing on fairy tales.” (

Have you read "Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty"?
If you have, let us know what you thought.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer D. BushroeApril 6, 2015 at 7:14 PM

    I loved this book! So much so that I read through it twice, then went back for a 3rd pass before I had to return it to the library! Like you said, it explores the societal pressures that girls face nowadays in regards to their bodies and makeup and guys and friends, and she does it through the lens of fairy tales. Just further proof that the world continues to need these classic tales as a way of understanding who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we come to terms with our desires and fears… I recommend you read it! I'm not big on poetry either, but the poems were all easily accessible and beautiful without feeling stuffy.