Tuesday marked the birthday of poet, Marilyn Hacker. In her honor, I've been thinking about a writing an odd multi-part fairy tale poem, based around a particular Grimm story, and featuring a transgendered bear. I may never finish it (well, actually, yesterday I finished a draft) but if I do, it is meant to be a kind of tribute to something wonderful she did when she was just about precisely my age. I am a long-time fan of all her work, but I am a fan, in that way we love what we love that feels particularly personal, almost like a secret, of her very brilliant series of poems based around the legend of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and featured in her fourth book, Assumptions (Knopf, 1985).
I love The Snow Queen poems for the figure of the Little Robber Girl, whom Hacker depicts as a saucy, savvy, tough-skinned and tender tomboy-girl. The friendship between the Little Robber Girl and Gerda saves Gerda's life, allows her brother's rescue. The Little Robber Girl knows how to handle her knife, how to maneuver around her mother, how to get dirty and stay clean. I'm simplifying.
Girl: Who are you?
My Son: I'm superman.
Girl: No you're not. (Then she pushes him hard and to the side.)
My Son: (Face all surprise, he regains his balance, smiling) No. No. No. Bad Idea. (he tells her, and he is laughing)
I know it's time to watch (and I do). But I hate to put the book down. There in that place of fairy tale, redwood chips, broken buckets and sand, my son is a super hero, I am a bookworm, and two girls were solving their problems in fluent blank verse, gritty and mutually supportive. I didn't know Marilyn Hacker yet. (I met her actually about two weeks later. Another story, for another day.)
In honor of Marilyn Hacker's birthday, here are some wonderful poems of hers, readily available online.
Here is The Rune of the Finland Woman, from this Snow Queen series
Some books make sense. Others make sense of us.
Thank you, Marilyn!