The Animal Bridegroom

by Lara Killian

3 August 2009

 
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I don’t read a lot of poetry in general. But this quirky little volume by Canadian poet Sandra Kasturi (with a foreword by Neil Gaiman) jumped into my pile of library books recently. 

The Animal Bridegroom (2007) is part poetry, part twisted fairytale, and totally fascinating. Mermaids, princesses, sharp-toothed wolves, and all manner of nasties populate Kasturi’s verses. The reader is forced to consider some of the darker implications behind those beloved Grimm tales.

If you had been the one, trapped by trickery in a gingerbread house deep in the woods, to push the witch to her death headfirst into the oven, would you struggle with depression and guilt for the rest of your life? 

Little Red Riding Hood is the “lost strawberry girl”, followed by a “thousand eyes gathering yellow / In the creeping dusk.” Princes who want to spirit away the sleeping beauty and keep her all dolled up for showing off have unattractive motivations compared to the knightly gentlemen of fairytale lore. Portraying witches and changelings, wolves and thorny rose gardens, Kasturi pays tribute to myths and legends, fables and ballads, with their menagerie of creatures and characters, at once so familiar and yet misunderstood. I haven’t enjoyed a book of poetry so much in a long while.

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