Every Girl Becomes the Wolf
Review by Roy Beckemeyer
In this chapbook Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman collaborate in revisiting fairy tales, mythology (ancient and twentieth-Century), and folk legends in a modern (yet timeless), and distinctively feminist voice. I appropriate the singular here because these poems come across as written by one poet (none of the work is attributed specifically by author). So, here we have a unity of voice——two writers speaking as one—presenting us with stories retold in the disparate and unique voices of a variety of female characters, many of whom are given words to speak for the first time in these poems. This is truly a tour de force performance.
Like many Mother Goose stories, these are not for the faint of heart. “Our bones are cold. We’re forgetting to bleed,” whisper the haunting voices in “Lighting the Ghost Lamps.”
Here are poems filled with hard-edged images, with foreboding: “I brought my sister comfort in the form of old movies, the kind that crept under the skin, then stayed with her late into the dark. How many times does it takes until a film fuses with the psyche?” (From “The Hellos from the Corners of Quiet Rooms”).
“It’s the keening / that carves, like a glacier grinding, an unending wail.” (From “A Music of Shattering Ice.”)
Gretel works for the old witch: “…my brother inside her cage, glutting on glazed donuts, sugar-sprinkled bread, men made of ginger. I sweep up the ashes, saving the bones.” (From “Hunger.”)
The witch: “Yesterday, I drew the paths to home in marzipan / and then ate until I ached. Why do I never feel full?” (From “The Path that Cuts Through Famine.”)
Norman Bates’ mother is in a contemplative mood: “The chair groans a heavy weight. I smile / for him, lips positioned just so. He is my good boy.” (From “The Vacancy Sign Is Always On.”)
Wiseman and Blythe build each of these poems in rich language and distinctive syntax. They make what we thought were familiar tales sound utterly new in their telling. “Every girl hums her own lithe youth and becomes the wolf…” they sing to us in the lyrical pantoum, “The Red Inside of Girls.” Readers should pick up a copy of Every Girl Becomes the Wolf and experience for themselves the strange harmonies, the exotic weft and warp woven by the combined voices of Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman.
Every Girl Becomes the Wolf, by Laura Madeline Wiseman & Andrea Blythe (Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2018, iv+32 pp., perfect bound). Available from Finishing Line Press. The authors’ webpages are at: www.andreablythe.com and www.lauramadelinewiseman.com, respectively.
Roy Beckemeyer’s latest poetry collection is Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018). Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprised ekphrastic poems inspired by depictions of angels in works of modern art. Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He He is co-editor of Konza Journal and is on the editorial board of River City Poetry. Beckemeyer lives in Wichita, Kansas and is a retired engineer and scientific journal editor. His work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards and was selected for Best Small Fictions 2019.