Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cradle Book: Stories and Fables by Craig Morgan Teicher

I am a sucker for the fractured fairy tale/fable/myth/folk tale genre.  Whether it be those zany children's books by Jon Scieszka (especially The Stinky Cheese Man and The Frog Prince, Cont.) or the poignant re-tellings by Donna Jo Napoli (Zel, The Great God Pan) and Robin McKinley (Spindle's End, Deerskin) or the good fun creepiness of John Connolly in The Book of Lost Things, I am all over it.  Recently, I've discovered some poetry books in this vein and am so excited, I just have to share (I'll talk about my other discovery in the next post).


Cradle Book: Stories and Fables is an interesting chapbook by a university professor who also happens to be the poetry editor at Publisher's Weekly (which does make you scratch your head when you see that PW gives this collection a starred review). It's comprised of thirty-three fables which are divided into three sections: "The Book of Silence," "The Book of Fear," and "The Book of Sleep." Doesn't this speak to your inner child?  I remember listening to those sinister fairy tales before bed.  Then there was that silence after mom or dad left the room, followed by fear as all the shadows morphed in monsters, and then at last, sleep. These poems plum those honest emotions and fears we experience when we are alone. Best of all, each fable has a moral buried within that is slightly askew--which is exactly how any poem should work--give us our world back, but from a different angle.
 
Here's an excerpt from one of my favorites, "The Crow": 

The crow was not always a crow.

A long time ago, before anyone knew how to count the days, or noticed how much time was passing, most men lived for hundreds of years. Eventually when a man grew tired of being a man, he walked down a long road until he was only a speck in the distance. Anyone watching would see the black speck suddenly take flight, a black bird joining other black birds in the sky. . .

. . .Now when a man dies he falls to the ground, into a hole, and soon becomes the dirt that covers him. And crows are just crows; men watch the invisible hours instead, which fly away and never return.

Isn't that a haunting image? The language throughout this book is simple and compelling--like the very best fables. Another good one is "The Dust" which posits that Dust is actually a living, sentient being looked after by children (I can personally attest to this after returning home from work each day to sticky children and a band of propagating dust bunnies in the corners of my home).  Of course, Dust has no loyalty to anyone. . ."it is simply waiting for us to join it."

Good stuff.

<I checked this book out of my library.>

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