Deborah J. Brannon

May 252011
 

Welcome to BordertownI missed my exit to Bordertown.

I recall it clearly – I was standing in the musty confines of the SFF section in Zelda Books in Montgomery, Alabama. Many important moments began this way for me, as many a well-travelled book fell into my hands and helped build me into the woman I am today. I would spend every minute my mother let me, running my fingers along the spines of so very many inviting books, pulling those out that caught my fancy. Wolfwalker by Tara K. Harper. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge. Beldan’s Fire by Midori Snyder.1

Life on the Border, edited by Terri Windling.

Honestly, it was the allusion to borders that caught my eye, along with the mind-expanding moment of being confronted with a collection of stories described right on the cover as “where Elfland meets rock and roll.” I needed borders at that time in my life: borders to cross, borders to run to. A way to escape into a place filled with magic, no matter the cost. I lingered over it, but my mother was calling from the register and I’d already met my quota of allowed books for the day with other choices. I reluctantly left Life on the Border on the shelf, determined to come back for it the next week.

I never found it again, as a kid. Tickets to Bordertown aren’t easy to come by, nor do they hang around if you make the mistake of not running off with them immediately. The collection was gone when I went looking the next week, and I let it fade from memory. I found my way to similar places – Newford under the wing of Charles de Lint, particularly. I found my way to the nexus of Bordertown authors and their kin by discovering The Endicott Studio almost as soon as I first logged onto the Internet, becoming an ardent fan of the site.

Yet it wasn’t until very recently that I found my missing ticket to Bordertown, and claimed the collections I didn’t quite manage to find when I was a perfect candidate for emigration. Funnily enough, my mother was the one who found them for me and sent them to my doorstep: a calling card from years gone by. (Thanks, mom!)

Here’s what you need to know about Bordertown:

It exists on the border between Faerie (or the Realm, as its inhabitants call it) and the World (where the rest of us live our mundane daily lives). It is full of runaways, elves, artists, enchantments, despair, hope, and community. Life is more dangerous there, and possibly more rewarding. It’s definitely expensive, and the costs are personal: there’s no easy way there, no easy life once inside, and transformation is required. If there’s a toll to be paid for living on the Border, it’s this: change or die.

Thirteen years ago, the Way between our world and the Border closed. Of course, in the manner of portals to other dimensions causing temporal dilation (not to mention in the fine tradition of fairy tales), only thirteen days passed for the denizens of Bordertown. Now the Way is open once again, tourists are flooding in, and there’s a new scene on the rise.

This is the scene that gives us Welcome to Bordertown, a wonderfully monstrous book of dangerous dreams and unlooked-for salvation in the streets of that frontier city. With Terri Windling’s blessing, Ellen Kushner and Holly Black brought us back to the mean, inviting streets through stories provided by both original contributors and those who grew up on tales from the Border.

Fittingly enough, the anthology opens with an Introduction provided by Terri Windling, delivering a short history of how the Bordertown series came to be. Her Introduction is followed by a second one, this one by Holly Black and giving us the perspective of someone who was fundamentally shaped as a writer by the Bordertown series. They are interesting and insightful artifacts, perfectly encapsulated by Windling’s closing words:

I only laid the cobbles for the streets of Bordertown; it took all of us, an entire community, to bring the city to life. And that’s as it should be. Community, friendship, art: stirred together, they make a powerful magic. Used wisely, it can save your life. I know that it saved mine.

No volume in the Bordertown series would be complete without some sort of introductory document penned by a character or group from within Bordertown itself: in Welcome to Bordertown, this document is “Bordertown Basics,” a leaflet prepared by the Bordertown branch of the Diggers, helpfully outlining, well, the basics of arriving and living in the city. This document both serves to give you some basic background regarding the world’s mechanics, and sink you feet-first into the Borderlands. Once this leaflet is in your hands, there’s no turning back.

The stories open with “Welcome to Bordertown,” a collaboration between Ellen Kushner and Terri Windling, and it moves like vintage Bordertown. The piece is composed of two perspectives, intertwining but not quite meeting face to face for some time, one following a young girl who ran away from her smalltown life and family before the Way closed, and her suddenly older younger brother who came searching for her thirteen years later when the doors opened once more. “Welcome to Bordertown” is the perfect invocation for this collection, being so manifestly what the anthology is about: the old guard of Bordertown being confronted with the new, all soaked in the pathos of running away from something broken (or to something hopefully whole), tinged with the guilt of abandonment, and rife with the desperation to live freely.

Cory Doctorow’s “Shannon’s Law” stumbles onto the scene next, following the life and times of a technophile who brought the Internet to Bordertown – an impressive feat weirdly and wickedly managed – and his obssession with finding a way to send a data packet across the Border to the Realm, and get confirmation back that it was received. Essentially, to connect directly with the Realm from the World via encoded data. While this story fell flat on an initial reading, I think it’s one that would benefit from another visit once you understand that the point of the story is not Shannon’s quest to make that connection with the Realm. Keep that in mind as you read, and watch his other connections.

“Cruel Sister” by Patricia A. McKillip is the first poem of the anthology, and features both McKillip’s trademark grace and knives cunningly hidden under fairytale opulence. “Cruel Sister” is a poem so rich you can smell loam when you breathe. She plays fascinatingly with mirror images, and the borders between family members that sometimes aren’t enough to make you cleave together but instead cleave you apart.2

"There's A Stair In Her Hair" by Rima Staines

"There's A Stair In Her Hair" by Rima Staines served as inspiration for Catherynne M. Valente's and Amal El-Mohtar's pieces in the anthology.3

This separation when community is craved is a perfect lead-in for Catherynne M. Valente’s “A Voice Like a Hole.” This story hit me hard – it’s both brutal and beautiful, and that’s before the runaway Fig even catches sight of the Borderlands. I appreciate that the horrifying events of loss and being lost took place in our world, a bleak infusion of realism for a kid on the streets, and how a stolen trainride to stay warm bled into Bordertown. Even more, I appreciate that an arrival in Bordertown did not immediately mend what was broken, but really just represented a chance. Valente’s tale hooks you in the gut and, well – it has a voice like a hole. It sucks you in. You can’t help but look inside and come away raw with aching.

Following closely on the heels of “A Voice Like a Hole” is Amal El-Mohtar’s “Stairs in Her Hair.” Through relatively spare verse, El-Mohtar opens a vein (yours or hers, who can say?) with surgical precision and spills coins and stones and keys into your lap. They echo with loneliness, vulnerability, boldness. I’ve had the honor of hearing the poem sung by El-Mohtar herself, and can’t read it any other way now. I’ll always hear the author’s voice echoing in my head, shivering down my spine, leaving me blinking back tears.

“Incunabulum” by Emma Bull is a very valuable piece in that it gives us a perspective from the Trueblood side (i.e. the perspective from a denizen of the Realm beyond the Border). Although the main character has a very solid case of amnesia, his past is not the focus of the tale; instead, we get a very compelling “day in the life of a Bordertown immigrant” portrait, complete with cutting to the heart of who a person really is and what one decides to do with that knowledge.

From one perhaps unexpected perspective, we run to another: Steven Brust’s “Run Back Across the Border” is the second song in the anthology, and is a rather difficult piece steeped in the blood feuds and intolerance of the different Border factions. While being such an aggressively unwelcoming anthem, it still betrays the patchwork collection of people living thickly together in Bordertown through stanzas that bugle out from different factions without pause for overt differentiation.

“Prince of Thirteen Days” by Alaya Dawn Johnson is an absorbing story that uses the weirdness of the Border and what that might do to a lifetime resident to great effect. Peya decides to lose her virginity to a statue, if she can find a way to transmute him. The statue has a sentient and tragic past, and does not want a future. Then there’s Peya’s relationship with a patch of pavement and the graffiti across it, which might just be a small portal to the World and the strangest method of becoming a penpal ever. “Prince of Thirteen Days” actually manages to cover the full period that the Way was closed – in both worlds, amazingly – in a way that leaves you satisfied.

Will Shetterly’s “The Sages of Elsewhere” catches up with Wolfboy, a character thoroughly explored in his stand-alone novels Elsewhere and Nevernever. Although I haven’t yet read those novels, “The Sages of Elsewhere” really does feel like checking in with an old friend. The story immerses you in the trials and tribulations of bookstore ownership in Bordertown, the trouble with ensorcelled rare books, and what is really necessary in life to make a person happy. Wolfboy’s perspective is engaging, and leaves me eager to read more tales from his typing claws.

The Bordertown series is irrevocably tangled up with music: rock and roll is in its soul, and many of the original creators were themselves musicians of one stripe or another. So it’s no surprise to find a third musical piece here in Jane Yolen’s “Soulja Grrrl: A Long Line Rap.” I am nearly incapable of describing this rap otherwise than “awesome Tam Lin awesomeness squared!” In much fewer stanzas than most traditional Tam Lin ballads, Yolen manages to create a wholly memorable character and a wicked spoken word piece.

Following the bold and bared violence of “Soulja Grrrl,” “Crossings” by Janni Lee Simner similarly explores the more dangerous encounters waiting in Bordertown. The story also highlights the idiocy of coming to Bordertown with all your naivete intact – especially naivete fed by the modern romantic preoccupation with monsters (specifically werewolves and vampires). With a deft sensibility, Simner weaves an arrestingly bleak tale as sharp as a vampire’s fang and as irrevocable as a wolfman’s monthly madness.

In the heart of Welcome to Bordertown, we encounter the first Bordertown story told through sequential art: Sara Ryan’s “Fair Trade” (illustrated by Dylan Meconis) is a short comic telling the tale of a girl from the World seeking her mother in Bordertown. As one could guess from the title, the piece plays with the changeling concept and is rather straightforwardly told. Dylan Meconis’ illustrations are enthralling, doing a fine job of catching Bordertown in its multifaceted strangeness.

Jane Yolen has three pieces in the anthology, with the second being “Lullabye: Night Song for a Halfie.” Leading with a translator’s note situating the piece anthropologically and anecdotally, the lullaby unfolds as a “hushabye” piece sung by a Trueblood mother to her offspring. The piece is wonderfully disturbing, and strangely enough a bit of an earworm.

“Our Stars, Our Selves” by Tim Pratt is rock and roll bravado tangled up with the lack of wisdom in most wishes and a subplot more playfully engaging than the main story of Allie Land’s quest to become a star. Allie’s moxie is honestly more than the story can contain, and I’d like to catch up with her further into her Bordertown tenure.

Annette Curtis Klause’s “Elf Blood” delivers quite an interesting narrative, but suffers from the same thing its protagonist does: withdrawal. A young woman beleaguered by vampirism stumbles through life at arm’s reach, both shunned for being something she never claimed, and terrified of what she might have to do to survive. Though I quite enjoyed the story while I was in the midst of it, it turned out to be one of the most forgettable pieces in the volume. “Elf Blood” lacked vibrancy.

“Ours is the Prettiest” by Nalo Hopkinson was truly gorgeous, encompassing a celebration of life and death spoken in a unique voice. Hopkinson infused Bordertown with carnival lavishness and multicultural transcendence, all festooned with fear and loss and love and hate and the thorns that pierce among friends. The back and forth of the flashbacks woven through the ebb and flow of the Jou’vert parade were perfectly balanced, leading the story inevitably toward a crash-and-burn of revelation, catharsis, and loss.

It would seem that any piece which followed Hopkinson’s “Ours is the Prettiest” would be fated to seem faded by comparison, but “The Wall” by Delia Sherman does quite the opposite, shining out as compellingly as the short story it follows. The poem could be called an anthropologist’s brief findings on the perceived appearance of the membrane separating the World and the Realm. It could be called the truth, or all truths, or a facet. Or it can be called enthralling; all would be correct.4

Christopher Barzak’s “We Do Not Come in Peace” takes a sidelong glance at the way bloody revolutions begin through the lens of a man ground down by experience into a bland husk of what he once was. As a tale of a person finding once more something (or someone) they could believe in and rediscovering the drive to create, Barzak nailed the narrative. While I personally find the mob mentality often involved in revolutions an uncomfortable thought and one that slightly put me off the story, that discomfort seems not unintended by Barzak: Marius, his main character, is just as disturbed. Yet there is value in the breakdown.

Jane Yolen returns one last time to finish off her contributions to Welcome to Bordertown with “A Borderland Jump-Rope Rhyme,” an unexpected and clever installment in her collection of Bordertown street music. Once more, there is a fascinating translator’s note situating the piece and then the piece itself: a jump-rope rhyme which is spine-chillingly disturbing.

Holly Black, much as her co-editor Ellen Kushner did, co-authored a story for the anthology: “The Rowan Gentlemen” was written with Cassandra Clare, and is an utterly absorbing cloak-and-dagger piece, told with the verve characteristic of Black’s other works.5 We followed so many individual artists in previous Bordertown stories, that it’s fascinating to become involved with an artistic collective in this tale.  “The Rowan Gentlemen,” while being just as dangerous as other Bordertown stories, also manages to be lighter fare that ends on a less complicated note than most other entries in the collection.

Neil Gaiman’s “The Song of the Song” is a brilliant coda to the volume’s poetry, being a poem crafted in a conversational tone culminating in a bone-shivering warning. The piece is a song sung by the song that no one sings anymore, and it understands a few things about the difference between what stories really are and the way they’re told. The song skirls along the borders of thought and existence and fantasy, and it won’t be forgotten.

At the close of Welcome to Bordertown we come to “A Tangle of Green Men” by Charles de Lint. Much like Valente’s “A Voice Like a Hole,” the majority of this story doesn’t actually take place in Bordertown. Instead, we follow a young Native American and erstwhile screw-up by the name of Joey Green as he discovers how to live his life, how to fall in love, how to be happy — and how to continue in the face of profound loss. This story really should have been trite as it followed the trail of a well-known tragedy, but “A Tangle of Green Men” manages to be heartbreakingly wonderful. It is Charles de Lint at his best, and the perfect mythic finish to such an eclectic collection of tales.

Throughout this review, I’ve given you the barest glimpse of what Welcome to Bordertown is. Ellen Kushner and Holly Black assembled a staggering palette of talent, and each story within this anthology is a multilayered tapestry of deft artistry. There are levels of sociological commentary, political rumination, and emotional truth that you’ll simply have to discover for yourselves. Also, while Bordertown is the main character at the heart of this series, you’ll find the city itself most compellingly characterized in the stories told by Doctorow, Bull, Klause, Hopkinson, and Black and Clare.

Welcome to Bordertown is a dizzying collection of the many faces of Bordertown, making it both an excellent introduction to the city for a new generation and, perhaps, a simultaneously confusing one – which is just Bordertown all over. With such a profusion of perspectives, Bordertown adherents both old and new will have no trouble locating themselves somewhere in the pages. Likewise, those stories that I found to be the stand-outs (“A Voice Like a Hole,” “Stairs in Her Hair,” and “Ours is the Prettiest” to name but a few) will not be the ones that others find as compelling, and that is one fantastic aspect of a solid anthology.

Bordertown may have disappeared for thirteen years, but it was never forgotten. Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner reminds us why. BORDERTOWN LIVES!

 

Footnotes:

1. Yes, I did read Midori Snyder’s The Queen’s Quarter Series in the wrong order. I found Beldan’s Fire first, then Sadar’s Keep, and I still haven’t managed to find New Moon.

2. Thanks to the generosity of Tor, Ellen Kushner, and Holly Black, Cabinet des Fées is honored to feature “Cruel Sister” by Patricia A. McKillip in our blog: you can read it here.

3. More of Rima Staines gorgeous artwork can be seen at her site, Into the Hermitage.

4. Thanks once more to Tor, Ellen Kushner, and Holly Black, Cabinet des Fées is honored to feature “The Wall” by Delia Sherman in our blog: you can read it here.

5. I am unfortunately unfamiliar with Cassandra Clare’s other works, so I am unable to comment effectively on her established style.

Glass, Blood, and Ash by Catherynne M. Valente

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Apr 302010
 

Here we come at last to the end of April, the month we all began as fools. Do we now end as hermits, the secluded wise? We may or may not; however, in our concluding installment in honor of National Poetry Month in the United States, we do have a modern urban anchorite to see us off into the lusty month of May. Catherynne M. Valente joins us today with a poem of blood and glass, of the love among sisters, and of a certain cinder-maid.

Catherynne very nearly needs no introduction here: her short piece “The Maiden-Tree” helped inaugurate Scheherezade’s Bequest, while her column Child’s Play concerning the Child Ballads did the same for Cabinet des Fées in print . A mythpunk activist, she has written the Tiptree award-winning The Orphan’s Tales, the Hugo-nominated Palimpsest, and is currently working on novels inspired by Prester John and Koschei the Deathless (in Stalinist Russia!) respectively. She’s also published several volumes of poetry and been nominated for several awards in poetry; in 2008, she took a Rhysling with her The Seven Devils of Central California. Most recently, she has been working on two crowdfunded projects: The Omikuji Project: Cycle I and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She accomplishes all this while living on a small island off the coast of Maine, surrounded by her Carnival of Beasts, with a kitchen full of witchery and a basket full of textiles. We can imagine her knitting there, by the sea, but we have to wonder: what exactly is she knitting with?

“Blood, Glass, and Ash” was originally published in GrendelSong, and is currently available in A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, published by Norilana Press under the Curiosities imprint.

“Glass, Blood, and Ash” by Catherynne M. Valente

I.

 

Please, silk-sister, do this thing for me.

I do not want to sit on that broad-backed horse,
or smell his skin, grassy and hot as boiled husks,
inside a shirt ropy with gold tassels and primogeniture.

I never wanted it. I just
wanted to look like you
for one night. It should be you
hoisted up like a sack of wheat—
I stole your ruby comb,
your garnet pendant.
It must have been
your jewels he loved.

You will like it — they will put emeralds in your hair
and a thin gold crown on your head.
They will rub your skin down to supple
like a favorite tiger, soon to be
a favorite carpet.
Your spine is fit to queen-posture, not mine.

It is only a little shoe, only a little lie.
It was made from a mirror whose glass
was ground in another tale.
Look into it. It surely sings
that you are the fairer.

The doves, their claws still dusty with kitchen-ash
brought me a knife hammered out of a diamond.

It is so thin
that a breath will shatter it,
but so sharp
that the flesh it cleaves
does not even know
it has been cut.

Give me your heel.
I am the kind one, remember?
I would not hurt you.

Please, we are sisters;
out of the same striped pelt
did our father scissor our hearts.
Do this thing for me
your sister is afraid of the man
who loves her so much
he cannot remember her face.

Hold your breath—
I shall hold mine.

II.

The ash that crossed my forehead
was finer than the ash that greyed my feet—
soft as a kiss.

I wanted to dance. I wanted to be warm.
I wanted to eat. I wanted anything
but the furnace-grating cutting its
familiar welt-mark
into my back.

With my forehead exalted I went into the wood,
calling out to a dead mother
like a saint with her eyes on a plate.
But she did not come—
a nightingale instead hopped towards me
baring her little brown breast.

I am the song of your beauty, it chirped.

Like a hoopoe, she bent her head
and bit her own heart
in two. Out of her thin chest
spilled a gown red and gleaming,
bright as blisters.

It was this I wore under the palace arches,
this which cuffed my wrists,
cupped my breasts,
pinched my waist.

I walked into his arms bathed
in the blood of a nightingale,
and when we parted
he was drenched in scarlet.

III.

Please, silver-sister, do this thing for me.

I do not want to wear that dress again.
I do not want to kiss him, I do not want
to know what a prince tastes like. I do not want
to hear the castle doors shut behind me.

I never wanted it. I only wanted
to stand in that torchlight for a second
and feel as you must always feel.
It should be you hoisted up
with his saddlebags—
I stole your coral ring
and your attar of roses.
It must have been
your scent he loved.

You will like it — they will put pearls on your fingers
and a thin ivory crown on your head.
They will hang you up in a hall
and everyone will look at you,
everyone will remark how beautiful you are.
Your spine is fitted to that golden hook, not mine.

It is only a little shoe, only a little lie.
It was made from a coffin whose glass
was ground in another tale.
Look into it. It surely promises peace.

The arch is full of her blood, yes,
but that pours out as easily as soup from a ladle.

The doves, their claws still dusty with kitchen-ash,
brought me a knife hammered out of a diamond.

It is so thin
that a whisper will shatter it,
but so sharp
that the flesh it cleaves
believes itself whole.

Give me your toe.
I am the gentle one, remember?
I would not hurt you.

Please, we are sisters;
out of the same white wood
did our father hew our hearts.
Do this thing for me
your sister is afraid of the man
who loves her so much
he cannot tell her from any other.

Cinderella by Charles Folkard.

Cinderella by Charles Folkard.

Be silent—
so shall I.

IV.

 

Is there not another daughter in this house?

My hand is cold and heavy in his. The shoe
is full as a spoon, their blood
bright as blisters. My foot
glides noiseless in
on that slick scarlet track.

He tastes of dead gold.

My skin is tiger-supple,
there are emeralds in my hair,
pearls on my fingers
a thin ivory crown on my head.
I am loved; I am polished.

From my hook in the hall,
I can see the gardens.

***

This poem haunts, from beginning to end, whether you believe Cinderella’s words to be Machiavellian or honest beseeching. The imagery of a glass slipper filled with blood is so potent here, and perfectly descriptive of reading “Glass, Blood, and Ash” – here is Cinderella, a tale so ubiquitous that it’s transparent, and yet this rendition has the power to cut us to the heart, and collect our blood for show.

Catherynne was kind enough to set aside her knitting needles and turn her typing fingers away from storytelling to correspond with us for an interview. Read on to discover something about her poetic origins, who she wants to see in a mythpunk poetry slam, and how knitting could perhaps be interstitial art.

Deborah: What’s the origin story behind “Glass, Blood, and Ash”?

Catherynne: I was the featured poet for a zine called GrendelSong, and they’d asked for five poems from me. I thought it would be fun to do a set of five on a theme, and the theme I came up with was blood. At some point in the process my mind lighted on Cinderella and the severed heels and toes of her sisters, and I thought of it as kind of a challenge. Given that Cinderella is possibly the most retold fairy tale of all time, could I say anything new about it? And what I felt I could say was “Glass, Blood, and Ash.” Where all the agency of the story is Cinderella’s, but she still ends up stuck, lost, because that’s what happens to princesses. I’m sure some of my own bitterness about my first marriage to a naval officer is in there–the closest American culture has to princes. But the most striking thing about the story to me at that moment was that the prince loved Cinderella so much, but couldn’t even remember her face. She was literally interchangeable with any other girl. That’s terrifying to me. And a fate I can imagine she would be desperate to escape, even to coaxing her sisters to mutilate themselves to take her place.

I also liked having a tender and loving relationship between the sisters. I am myself a stepchild, and while my stepparent and I had issues, that never extended to my siblings. Sibling love is powerful, and not explored deeply enough for my taste.

Deborah: Mythpunk poetry slam: two poets enter, one poet leaves. Who would you most like to see throw down, and which would your money be on?

Catherynne: Like, anyone ever? Anne Sexton vs. John Keats. Hospital Rally. Or do you mean contemporary poets? CSE Cooney vs Amal El-Mohtar. My money’s on the blonde, but Amal bites. Literally and figuratively.

Deborah: You recently honeymooned in Russia, which I know involved several extremely unfortunate bumps along the way. However, ignoring those with our luxury of time and distance, let’s focus on how this was actually something you’d longed to do for some time. What resonated for you most strongly there? And did you write vodka-infused poetry, or pen lines while wandering the old streets, while looking out Anna Ahkmatova’s window?

Catherynne: Oh, you know me too well. I did write a few lines at her window, about the crows snapping at the rosehips in the courtyard below. I loved being in her house, in the autumn, the tiny rooms and scraps of her life all around. Though I think what resonated most strongly for me was visiting the Siege of Leningrad museum. The old women who work there are all survivors of the Siege, and we spoke with one woman who had been evacuated as a small child. Listening to her stories, her way of speaking, her love and hate for the city, I was moved to tears many times. Sometimes you can feel the exact moment a book begins in you, you know?

Deborah: When did you first know you were a poet?

Catherynne: I wrote my first poem at age 10 — at least the first time I remember sitting down to write a poem. I certainly felt it as an identity by my early teen years, whether those efforts are worth anything now or not. Probably not. I first published at 19, and when my first novel came out I was accused by nearly everyone of passing off poetry as fiction. I am what I am, I guess. These days I write a lot more fiction than poetry, but pretty much? I’m still just passing off verse as prose. Ha ha! I am a bandit. I have bandoliers full of pen nibs! My mask is very dashing also.

Deborah: I know you’re a supporter of interstitial arts. I know you’re recently a convert to the Cabal of Fiber Arts. So, what do you think: can poetry and knitting be synthesized? How would you do it?

Catherynne: What a great question! I think titling knitted projects as some jewelers title their pieces is a good start. You can spin shreds of fabric with words written on them into yarn. You can listen to poetry being read as you knit, so the words and the stitches occupy the same point in time. I’d be willing to bet you could design patterns based on rhyme schemes, on the shapes of formal poetry. A scarf is just a long column, after all…

All arts can be synthesized. You just have to want to see what strange children they make.

Discover more of Catherynne M. Valente’s work and follow her blog by checking out her website.

***

I’d like to thank Catherynne, Amal, and Seanan once more for letting us feature their poetry and interview them in honor of National Poetry Month!

Orpheus by Amal El-Mohtar

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Apr 292010
 

Two more days in April: two more poets to celebrate what is the close of National Poetry Month in the United States. Today, we welcome Amal El-Mohtar, no stranger to the digital pages of Cabinet des Fées – she has been published in Scheherezade’s Bequest, she writes book reviews for the site, and has been interviewed in her fearsomely mischievous guise as one-half of the Goblin Queen duo with Jessica P. Wick, editing the succulent poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit. She won the 2009 Rhysling Award with her poem “Song for an Ancient City” and her poetry and prose have ranged the zine-seas, from Mythic Delirium to Sybil’s Garage, from Shimmer to Strange Horizons and beyond. She currently lairs in an Old Library built from dismantled ships, pursuing a PhD in English literature and convincing all the local poor souls that she’s not actually a Queen of Tea and Mischief come among them to steal all their honey.

Today, she gives us a poetic salute to bereft and destroyed Orpheus; this poem was previously published in Sybil’s Garage No. 5.

Orphée (1865) by Gustave Moreau.

Orphée (1865) by Gustave Moreau.

“Orpheus” by Amal El-Mohtar

The maenads are departed, and the air
lies heavy, empty, still. No wind
rustles shiver-music from the leaves.
Bits of shell remember the tortoise,
float on the river, whisper
lyre, lyre,
tell us a story
lyre, lyre,
sing us a song
. All strings
are broken, now, dangle
from the open throat
that cannot swallow.

Muses wept. And yet, a voice,
(that frenzy could not steal or still)
ripples on the waves, distills
an essence from the ether—
shapes salt and foam and sea
into dark, sweet wine. Orpheus sings, and
I wonder:
is it relief, to know
that he will never turn his head again?

I always find the final lines of this poem strike me to the quick, leave me shuddering much like the first time I read Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.” If it also affects you thusly, then sit still and recover: Amal stopped by for a cup of tea and kindly agreed to an e-mail interview with us.

Deborah: What’s the origin story behind “Orpheus”?

Amal: Once upon a time, in lands far, far away from each other, two young ladies just shy of twenty years of age sat down to create a Poetry Blog, wherein they would post their works-in-progress in a work-a-day fashion, writing poems to the throw of a ten-sided die. One lady, knowing how very much her friend loved stories about Orpheus, decided to try her hand at writing a poem about him for the inaugural Poetry Blog post. It happened very quickly, in a sitting, and as her friend was perfectly delighted by it, the poet decided that it would, of course, be beloved by editors the wide world over.

This was not the case.

It took about four years from penning to publication, when the fine folk at Sybil’s Garage decided to pick it up for their fifth issue. Even then, it garnered a single, one-word review, that word being “unexceptional.” And that, dear lady, is the story of this unfortunate poem about an unfortunate man, beloved only by those who knew it intimately – until now, when your kind self singled it out!

Deborah: I’ve never had the delight of hearing you play, but I understand that you’re a harpist. Has your engagement with the harp influenced your poetry, or vice versa?

Amal: Oh, the influence has definitely gone both ways, but poetry is actually, indirectly, the reason I play the harp. When I was in 9th grade, I told my friend Linh how much I loved Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, and she said that I should really listen to Loreena McKennitt, a harpist who’d put that poem to music. Understand that, up until this point, my musical knowledge had been limited to Celine Dion, Ace of Base, Mariah Carey, and classical Arabic music; the idea that people made music of my favourite poetry was fascinating. Linh lent me cassettes of Parallel Dreams and The Visit, and I fell in love with it, feeling that here was my music, music that I could cling to and love, music I wanted to learn to make. My parents being the wonderfully supportive people they are, I was soon learning to play the harp.

Deborah: Just now you’re pursuing graduate work in England, writing your doctoral dissertation on fairies and the Romantics wherein you touch upon Keats. What is your favorite poem by that worthy? Defend your choice!

Amal: So, I wrote an answer to this, and saved it, and my computer ate it. Given that I’d been turning the choice over and over in my head since I wrote it, I take this as a sign.

Originally, I absolutely, unequivocally threw my favour to “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” I adore that poem completely. I know it by heart. I want to make music for it. I think it’s a perfect poem, and I love it for its ambiguity, its threat, its anguish and ecstasy, for the repetition of “wild,” for the numbered kisses in it. But the poem that has produced the strongest reaction in me – and by “strongest reaction” I mean something that hovers on the outer edges of decency – is his “Ode to a Nightingale,” for a long-winded reason.

When I was little, I read L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and through it was introduced to a great deal of poets and poetry. I went on to read most of the Anne books, and chased them down with Emily of New Moon, whom I loved even more than Anne. I looked up many of the poets I found in the books, but very few of the actual poems; so much of the time it was “these are lines by Tennyson,” “here is a quote from Keats,” and so on, so I’d find a Complete Works in the library and read what drew my fancy.

Sometimes the lines would get mixed up in my head. For a long time, I associated the lines “charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in fairylands forlorn” with Tennyson, because in Emily of New Moon there’s an enraptured moment provoked by Tennyson’s “horns of elfland faintly blowing.” Imagine my surprise, then, when throat-deep in “Ode to a Nightingale,” overcome with love for this poem I’d previously never much cared for, never been able to get into, I found those lines. I felt plunged into the perilous seas. I started – please don’t laugh – to cry. I had to stop reading for a moment and just bite my lip and turn the lines over and over in my head, as if they were a key I’d been carrying around for years that had just now been fitted to their proper lock, opening the charm’d magic casement up for me.

So. “Ode to a Nightingale,” then, for profoundly personal reasons, but “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” for perfection.

Deborah: You have a collection of poetry and prose forthcoming from Papaveria Press very soon, each original piece inspired by a variety of honeys you sampled over the course of February 2009. Naturally, the volume is entitled The Honey Month. Could you tell us a little bit about this project?

Amal: With great pleasure. This project was conceived in September 2008, at a diner called “The Diner,” in Somerset, New Jersey, when, suffering from a nasty cold and running on approximately an hour’s sleep, I asked our kind waitress to bring me some honey to mix into my herbal tea. This prompted Danielle Sucher and I to start talking about how much we loved honey, how fascinating and magical a thing it is, how very like wine it is in its capacity for variety of colour, scent, taste. We waxed rhapsodic about the different kinds of honey we’d tried. I said, wouldn’t it be cool to swap honey in the post like some people swap perfume? To send each other samples of these honeys we were describing and review them the way some people review BPAL? Danielle said, yes! Let’s do it!

I failed to anticipate that Danielle, being a fabulous gourmet who ran her own occasional restaurant with her partner, might have a tiny bit more honey than me. By which I mean, I had imagined we would send each other a couple of vials at a time, whenever we came across an interesting new honey. Instead, my first package from Danielle, received some three weeks after we first discussed it, contained thirty-five ½ ml vials, when the sum total of different honeys I’d had in my pantry at any one time was, perhaps, eight.

To try and balance this, I offered to write fiction or poetry in addition to a review of the honeys she’d sent me, while she, being skilled in a number of handcrafts, offered to make different objects for the honeys I sent her. We decided to fix on a month to do this in; I suggested February, partly because it was far enough away that I knew I could be settled into my PhD program in England by then, but mainly because it was the anniversary-month of my giving Catherynne Valente honey and beeswax in Ottawa earlier that year, and because it would be the month in which her novel Palimpsest, with all its connections to bees and honey, would launch. I’d been assisting her with some of the viral marketing for the novel, and had been helping to organize the many Palimpsest shows she was performing with S. J. Tucker all across the country, so since I couldn’t attend any of them from an ocean away, I thought I could maybe offer up this project as a tribute to that as well. Since Cat introduced Danielle and me that weekend in New Jersey, it felt right, and come February I was unstoppering a vial of honey a day, tasting it, reviewing it, and writing something spontaneous for it.

Follow Amal’s blog at Voices on the Midnight Air to find out more about The Honey Month and her mischievous doings. Also, read this post by Erzebet Yellowboy about the two editions of The Honey Month that Papaveria Press will be releasing!

Baba Yaga Said by Seanan McGuire

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Apr 282010
 

In these last few days of April – which is National Poetry Month in the United States – I would like to share with you some fine poetry by some enchanting poets. To begin with, we have a poem by Campbell award-nominated Seanan McGuire featuring the fearsomely strange figure of Baba Yaga. But first, allow me to introduce the poet:

A folklore maven and woman of the beautiful weird, Seanan burst onto the urban fantasy scene last year with Rosemary and Rue, the first book in her October Daye series. As her first series proliferates (Rosemary and Rue was recently joined by A Local Habitation, with An Artificial Night forthcoming in September), Seanan is also writing a year-long American folkpunk piece entitled Sparrow Hill Road at The Edge of Propinquity and has just published Feed, the first part of a zombie politico-thriller trilogy, under the pseudonym Mira Grant.  In addition to this, she is a well-known filker, a semi-regular cartoonist, and still manages to take daily walks. Most of us are quite sure that Seanan never actually sleeps and has, perhaps, secretly perfected human cloning.

"Baba Yaga Dines" by Forest Rogers.

“Baba Yaga Said” by Seanan McGuire

“There’s nothing mystic in this magic,”
Baba Yaga said, “nothing so strange
as you would make it out to be.
This world is wide and wild
and full of wonders, and in your
yearning to see fireworks,
you overlook the glory
in a dandelion, the spectacle
trapped inside a butterfly.”

“There’s nothing modern in this story,”
Baba Yaga said, “nothing ancient,
nothing old or new or anything except
eternal — we are the wind, the waves,
the water whispering stories
to the dolphins and the dreaming whales.
We are everything. We are anything.
Remember that, my Vassilisa, and
I will set you free.”

“There’s nothing gained if nothing’s ventured,”
Baba Yaga said, and gave me back my heart,
and opened wide the door,
and let me go.

Originally, I planned to share a short reflection on this poem. Instead, I think you should breathe deeply and read it once again. Then go outside, close your eyes, and let these words echo through your memory and down into your fingertips. At last, open your eyes, and mark what first you see. Remember this awareness with gladsome fierceness.

Before you do, though, read on! Seanan graciously spared some of her time to talk with me about getting in trouble for writing sonnets, the restorative properties of structured poetry, and the brilliance of filking.

Deborah: You were recently published in the Spring edition of Goblin Fruit, where I read that you’ve been writing poetry since the age of six. You also mentioned being sent to the principal’s office for your first composed sonnet! Could you elaborate?

Seanan: One of my aunts decided to test a theory she had, about kids learning that things are difficult, and treating them as difficult, rather than actually approaching the things on their own merits. So she sat me down when I was getting ready to start school and told me that I would be expected to write simple poetry–and that since I could count to ten and rhyme “cat” with “hat,” the Shakespearean sonnet was the simplest form of poem there was. I wrote a lot of sonnets my first few years in school. My kindergarten teacher was convinced that I’d stolen the sonnet I turned in, even though it mentioned my cat by name. Accusing six-year-olds of plagiarism was apparently her hobby.

Deborah: Speaking of your appearance in Goblin Fruit: “Ever After Variations,” besides being a compelling reflection on fairy tales and the what-comes-after, is an excellent vilanelle. How did your interest in formal structure develop?

Seanan: I think it started with the sonnets. But from there… I just love the challenge of it. Here’s this form, and you have to make the story you’re telling fit inside its limitations. I really love structured poetry. It makes everything better.

Deborah: You make it sound as if you write structured poetry as a soothing activity! …do you? And which structured form do you find most restful? Most intimidating?

Seanan: I do! Structured poetry is like poetry with a safety net. You can fall, but you can’t fall too far out of control. I probably find sonnets to be the most restful, and virelais to be the most stressful. I refuse to write virelai ancens. Life is too short for that sort of suffering.

Deborah: Besides being a prolific poet and author, you are also a song-writer with three albums currently available through your website and a third (Wicked Girls) in the works. Do you find yourself enjoying song-writing more than poetry? And which comes first for you: the lyrics or the feel for the music?

Seanan: Songwriting is poetry! It’s just a very specific form of structure. I usually get the words and the music at the same time, when it’s going to be a song; if I don’t get ambushed with music, I know it’s a poem that’s meant for reading and reciting, instead of singing.

Deborah: I’ve noticed from your lyrics (and knowing you!) that you’re inspired by established SFF worlds and horror franchises as much as fairy tales and science. When did you discover filking? How did you get into it, and how would you recommend a novice approach the world of filking today?

Seanan: Filk is a wonderful, huge, welcoming community, and it’s easy to get involved. We have conventions all over the United States, as well as in Germany and the United Kingdom; there are online communities, and a lot of amazing music available for purchase. I’d recommend dropping by any one of the filk forums and saying “my interests are X, can you recommend…?”, and then see where that goes.

I got involved in filk in high school, through about eight different avenues at the same time. I have never looked back.

Deborah: What’s the origin story behind “Baba Yaga Said”?

Seanan: I think that Baba Yaga makes a very good growth archetype, used properly, and I wanted to comment on the way people look so hard for magic that they miss the magic that’s already there. You get so busy searching the sky for a phoenix that you forget to count the crows.

You can find out more about Seanan McGuire’s work and discover a truly awesome amount of free content at her website.

The Wild Hunt: A Mythic Webseries

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Apr 222010
 

Next month, InByTheEye Films will debut a new webseries inspired by the Wild Hunt of folklore and the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. Infused with a Victorian aesthetic, the series follows the trials of a troubled young wife (Marie) and a sarcastic butler (Sullivan) who find themselves the prey of the Hunt. In order to elude the Captain of the Furious Host and their fate at his hands, each must beat him at his own game and discover what importance Daphne – once the Captain’s prey, now his muse – holds to their own stories. In the end, only one will triumph… and survive.

Although the trailer is not yet available, – we’ll be sure to post it here as soon as it is – I was able to sit down with Lisa Stock, the creative powerhouse behind InByTheEye Films, to talk briefly about The Wild Hunt.

Deborah: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind The Wild Hunt.

Lisa: I’ve always loved the legend. It’s one of those you carry around inside and then when you’re out in the forest alone you start to wonder who you might run into. Like a good ghost story you can’t shake – and don’t want to! Then you have to ask yourself – how much does myth and your belief in it really influence your life? Beyond spooking yourself at night. I’ve actually given this charge to the character of the Captain of the Wild Hunt. He finds it quite fascinating when someone believes he doesn’t exist – and engages his victims in lively conversations about scientific facts vs. one’s own beliefs. (Something I also address in Titania.) You can rationalize a fear away, but it always comes creeping back up to take hold of you again. So, let’s talk about what’s real and what isn’t…

Deborah: How did you come by the truly fascinating decision to mix Daphne in with the Wild Hunt?

Lisa: It came to me quite simply and unexpectedly. I was writing a scene where the Captain was pursuing a woman whose lover he had just taken. He wants them both. But I wanted her to get away and as I’m trying to think of how she would escape him, the myth of Daphne came to me – and the idea that she could be consumed and protected by the forest by turning into a tree. And the Captain (played by Tom Ross, who aside from being an actor is a real-life horse trainer) will be quite perplexed by this. He’s never lost one – he can’t. He’s Death and eventually he catches up to us all. Yet here’s Daphne, not alive and not dead – but trapped in a state between the two. I do expand a bit on that myth and give her more to do than just peer out from the trees! She will become quite a player in the fates of Marie and Sullivan.

Deborah: Why set it in the Victorian era?

Lisa: I love the time period and the look. Having said that – we’re taking liberties, note Marie’s bright pink hair! So, it’s just “suggestive” of the era. I think it’s the romanticism that draws me, and then putting something darker into the middle of that core that makes you think twice about how things look on the surface compared to how they really are underneath. And who doesn’t love to dress up in those clothes!

Deborah: How many episodes do you expect this web series to run, and what’s your ideal production and airing schedule?

Lisa: Initially, six episodes after the pilot. And who knows? Maybe more after that – but I have six written that completes the stories of Marie (played by Catherine Mancusco) and Sullivan (will be played by Seth Harris – who you saw portray Brother in “Brother & Sister“). After that – the Captain could move to new ground… The pilot, which plays like a good old-fashioned ghost story, will air in May on our YouTube Channel, and then production on the other episodes will resume once I’m finished with the Titania Prequel, sometime in the summer.

Deborah: Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to answer a few questions!

In addition to production on The Wild Hunt, InByTheEye Films has recently been working to produce a short prequel to Titania, the first installment in The Medisaga Trilogy, a retelling of the 3 Wishes Fairy Fest in Cornwall, England, Lisa and company have a timetable on which to produce the prequel. The prequel is designed to stand on its own, being sent out to international film fests, and will also serve as the proposal to secure funding for Titania itself. The Titania prequel is also a crowdfunded project with a May 20th, 2010 deadline: if you have a fiver (or more!) to spare and a yen to support mythic filmmaking, you can find out more at InByTheEye’s site.

Mar 022010
 

Featuring a review of Beauty and the Beast by David Lister (director), 2009.
Reviewed by Deborah J. Brannon

Most of you are probably already aware of Syfy‘s new Saturday night original movie plans: seeking fertile ground after endless iterations of disaster movies and mega-monsters, Syfy has turned their sights on fairy tales, legendary figures, and classic children’s literature.

It’s not completely surprising: Syfy’s airing of Tin Man in 2007 and Alice last year suggested a quiet testing of the waters, feeling for viewer response to dark re-imaginings of familiar childhood tales. I haven’t seen Tin Man, the bleak and fantastical riff on The Wizard of Oz starring Zooey Daschanel, but I’ve heard it wasn’t a waste. Its ratings were phenomenal (for Syfy) and it was nominated for several Emmys, one of which it won. This past December, I was fully immersed in the fan response to the grungy and noirish Alice starring Caterina Scorsone and Andrew Lee Potts — Alice in Wonderland post-legendary age, basically — and there is a relatively small, yet dedicated and thriving fanbase. Critical reception, on the other hand, has been much more tepid. (For my part, I thought Alice had great potential, but that’s a topic for a future review.)

In case you haven’t read the particulars of this new direction for Syfy, some of their ideas include Red, following the romantic misadventure of a woman from a long line of werewolf-hunters whose boyfriend contracts lycanthropy; Hansel, featuring an adult Hansel returning to the wood of his childhood travails to find Gretel is the new witch; and other action films seeking to reinvigorate the Sinbad and Aladdin stories. You can read a bit more about these and other potential films in this article on the Sci Fi Wire.

To kick off their fairy tale programming plans, Syfy purchased Limelight International‘s Beauty and the Beast, renamed it Beauty and the Beasts:  A Dark Tale in all their network advertising, and aired it this past Saturday, February 27th as a “gritty celebration of Valentine’s Day.” In this retelling, Belle wears a cotton mini-dress under a leather bustier and makes usually good-smelling concoctions from local herbs for her washerwoman mother’s business. (Her unusual concoctions explode, and thus she discovers smoke bombs. I’m not kidding.) The Beast is a somewhat slow, careless fellow who saves silly herb-gatherers from very obvious stalking wolves, but  then doesn’t have the sense to hide after killing it so she won’t see his horribly disfigured face (although this latter is something he really wants to avoid). Then there’s an evil sorceress (Lady Helen) who wants to marry an ambitious count (Count Rudolph) and help the count gain the kingdom so that she can rule, because, even though her “heart’s as black as hell, and everyone knows it,” she knows the people wouldn’t approve of rule by a woman. And this completely black-hearted sorceress of not-inconsiderable power never thinks of subjugating them to her will or anything: no, she’ll win her right to rule through marriage! Also, Lady Helen has created a troll that’s made up of the Beast’s life force. Did I mention that, of course, the Beast is a cursed prince cast aside to die as an infant due to his temerity in being born deformed? Or that the Lady Helen is the one that cursed him because the King spurned her? Anyway, she’s used the Beast’s life force to create a murderous, ravening troll who tears people limb from limb so that we have to endure a number of graphic spurting-blood shots that are more laughter-inducing than stomach-churning. The usage of this life force, nor the troll’s subsequent pseudo-destruction seem to affect the Beast in any noticeable way.

Does that sound incredibly disjointed, overly confusing and, well, just plain ridiculous? I know it does. Also, it doesn’t really cover the half of it. I wish I were kidding: you need only read Genevieve Valentine’s hilarious write-up at Tor to see that I’m not.

The only thing I really felt I could congratulate the filmmakers on was their make-up design of the Beast. His countenance effectively disgusted me and I would have lauded any young woman who could see past it. Unfortunately, in this film, the love between Beauty and Beast was more oh-so-random than oh-so-pure. Belle insists on believing the worst of the Beast at the drop of every corpse, does so many about-faces of passionate belief that she should have permanent emotional vertigo, and nobly kisses the Beast with a stunning lack of feeling, but ridiculous amount of conceit because, of course, such a lovely woman deigning to kiss such a deformed monster should be enough to break the spell. Forget true love. (Big surprise: it doesn’t work. In fact, I’m not sure what causes the spell to be broken, as that’s also incredibly random. It just seems to come at the end of the story since that’s where it goes.)

I generally enjoy bad movies, but found nothing to enjoy here. Beauty and the Beast didn’t seem self-conscious enough to be a self-parody, nor did it play it so straight that you knew it was all for a laugh. In fact, it rather seems that everyone who showed up to work on it just… didn’t care. Except for the CGI guys: I know they tried their best with the skills and equipment they had, poor souls. Neither was enough to stifle my mirthless giggles, unfortunately. Possibly the only guys having any real fun on this set were the ones responsible for the gore.

Limelight International lists two other similar films in the works: Jabberwocky and Sinbad and the Minotaur. Even though Syfy mentions a Sinbad film on their brainstorming docket, I hope another Limelight International picture isn’t the movie they have in mind. While the choice of this Beauty and the Beast as an opening gambit hasn’t fully wrecked my hopes for future Syfy fairy tale re-imaginings, further acquisitions from Limelight International would. I’d love to see Syfy working more with RHI Entertainment, the company responsible for both Tin Man and Alice,  who at least consistently provides some entertaining material.

Of course, with this most recent article concerning Beauty and the Beast up at TV By the Numbers, my hopes are probably sitting on a very unstable foundation: “Syfy Gets Off To Strong Start With New Original Movies…

Feb 172010
 

Brother and Sister
by Lisa Stock (director), 2009
reviewed by Deborah J. Brannon

Presently the children found a little brook dancing and glittering over the stones, and brother was eager to drink of it, but as it rushed past sister heard it murmuring:
“Who drinks of me will be a tiger! Who drinks of me will be a tiger!”
So she cried out, “Oh! dear brother, pray don’t drink, or you’ll be turned into a wild beast and tear me to pieces.”
Brother was dreadfully thirsty, but he did not drink.

“Very well,” said he, “I’ll wait till we come to the next spring.”
When they came to the second brook, sister heard it repeating too:
“Who drinks of me will be a wolf! Who drinks of me will be a wolf!”
And she cried, “Oh! brother, pray don’t drink here either, or you’ll be turned into a wolf and eat me up.”

Again brother did not drink, but he said:

“Well, I’ll wait a little longer till we reach the next stream, but then, whatever you may say, I really must drink, for I can bear this thirst no longer.”

From “Brother and Sister,” collected by the Brothers Grimm
and available in annotated form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales.

I remember, perhaps ten years ago, first reading Terri Windling‘s “Brother and Sister.” I was in college, on my own for the first time and, in several private ways, learning what it was to survive. It was the afternoon, golden light sliding through autumn trees and filtering through an unclothed window. I was thumbing through one of my favorite sites, The Endicott Studio, and there it was.

do you remember, brother / those days in the wood…

I read, rapt. I read again. And then I abandoned that cold dorm room of linoleum and concrete for the college green with its fringe of wood. I ached to leap and run, but I settled for hugging my goosebumped-arms and walking down to the white gazebo near the pond with its overgrown banks. Perhaps I wrote some; perhaps I only dreamed. Windling’s words rattled inside me, sowing fierce joy and nettling discontent.

It’s a poem that I never forgot, and one that has followed me. I re-encountered it in a used copy of The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors, so assiduously sought out and purchased through AbeBooks a year later. There it was again, in The Poets’ Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, an anthology I received as a Yuletide gift one year. When I donated to the Endicott Studio several years later and received a Windling print, was it any surprise that I didn’t even hesitate before selecting Brother and Sister?

Now, today, I discovered Lisa Stock’s short film adaptation of the original German fairy tale and Terri Windling’s poem. The film’s setting invokes the ubiquitous Wood; the actors are dreamy and subtle. The animation is by turns spare and opulent, yet always elegant. The music by Priscilla Hernandez is perfectly evocative. The deer costumes reverberate mythically, and the crown by Parrish Relics is a work of art. Much as Terri Windling’s original poem, the film drew me in and left me rapt. When, at last, Michelle Santagate spoke the Sister’s words from Windling’s poem, I again felt that fierce joy singing through my veins. If there is any weakness to this film, it is that you must be familiar with the original tale to fully appreciate it; yet I don’t consider this a true weakness, but rather an inherent promotion of dialogue among the iterations of “Brother and Sister.”

I exhort you all to watch it, as I did, and let yourself be submerged.

Click on the movie poster above to watch the short film.

You can read more about “Brother and Sister” (as well as see a behind the scenes video) and discover other films by Lisa Stock at her website, InByTheEye.

It would be terribly remiss of me to close without mentioning the Mythic Film Festival, pioneered by Lisa Stock and Connie Toebe. The first annual Mythic Film Festival is set to take place on April 30th through May 2nd, 2010, in New York City. In their own words, “[o]ur mission is to support and promote filmmakers working in the mythic arts and independently of the studio system. The work of those who find myth and metaphor to be the conduit of their imagination. Our goal is to celebrate these films in the spirit of a festival, rather than the grind of competition.” For those interested in entering a film into the Festival, attending what promises to be an amazing event, or otherwise supporting the Festival’s mission, please visit the website for more information.

Photography by Lisa Stock, images used with permission.