Fairy Tale – Redacted –

February 20, 2020


Once I was born in a place I do not recall.
The seashore, a peach blossom, an island of selkies.
Once I lost an arm and became part swan.
My brothers flew in circles in the sky.

My father the King lost my mother when I was young
and insisted on marrying me, so I fled
with only a fur coat, a gown of stars and a gown of sun,
as well as a magic ring. I hid inside tree trunks
and was taken in by monks. I didn’t speak of it
for years. The prince fell in love with my soup.
It held all my secrets. We wed in a shower of gold.

My first child was born in an egg. My second child
a mermaid. They were taken and raised in secret.
The prince left me and I became a dragon.
I sing at night, flying around the city.
They say rage, I say morning.
The castle walls are not enough to stop me.

Every fairy tale is a tale of murder, of incest,
of things no one wants to see. A mother-in-law
full of poison, a father unsafe. a family that leaves its babies
in the woods. The lesson is carved into trees,
turned into stories of saints, murmured into the ears
of children until they become like psalms,
the sound of the sea, the rush of wings,
reminding us of secrets, of things unseen.

Jeannine Hall Gaile


February 20, 2020

All yellow and blond and bare!
With her shining eye-balls lit,
But why does she stare and sit?
I — dizzy and dazed and blind,
Half-mazed in her trailing hair,
Think — why does she crouch up there,
A mask with a light behind?

With a grin on her faded face,
Like a painted bawd she leers,
And gibbers and gibes and jeers
At me, as I writhe in vain,
And tear at the flimsy lace,
The web of a goblin trace
That she swathes about my brain!

I catch through her skirts a – whirl
The flash of a gleaming limb,
As she leans on the mountain rim,
Her pale cheek pressed to the sky;
The starred skies eddy and swirl,
As I clutch at the white-faced girl
That drifts like a vapour by.

She holds, as she sits aloof,
Me chained in her golden ring,
Like a dazed and helpless thing;
And casts from her glist’ning shoal
The net of her woven woof
Spread over the great sky roof,
And meshes and coils my soul.

I know that her foils are set,
By the goblin grin she wears!
She’s baited her golden snares
With a glittering opal bowl—
‘Drink, and forget! forget!’
But I strain at the strong white net
With its strands about my soul.

And her eye-beams flash and leap –
They are quick — they are living things!
And each to my forehead clings,
Till the drawn veins burst and bleed;
In my brain they have entered deep
To foster and crawl and creep,
And burrow and gorge and feed!

She came through the opening stars,
And gazed on his face upturned
Till her pale eye blazed and burned
And shone with an evil glow;
She passed through the closing stars —
A soul in her strong white bars,
And a mindless hulk below.

Lola Ridge

Now we know

February 20, 2020

Another good read

February 20, 2020

become a dragon naturalist

February 20, 2020

Not a day goes by that the post does not bring me at least one letter from a young person (or sometimes one not so young) who wishes to follow in my footsteps and become a dragon naturalist. Nowadays, of course, the field is quite respectable, with university courses and intellectual societies putting out fat volumes titled Proceedings of some meeting or other. Those interested in respectable things, however, attend my lectures. The ones who write to me invariably want to hear about my adventures: my escape from captivity in the swamps of Mouleen, or my role in the great Battle of Keonga, or (most frequently) my flight to the inhospitable heights of the Mrtyahaima peaks, the only place on earth where the secrets of dragonkind could be unlocked.

Even the most dedicated of letter-writers could not hope to answer all these queries personally. I have therefore accepted the offer from Messrs. Carrigdon & Rudge to publish a series of memoirs chronicling the more interesting portions of my life. By and large these shall focus on those expeditions which led to the discovery for which I have become so famous, but there shall also be occasional digressions into matters more entertaining, personal, or even (yes) salacious. One benefit of being an old woman now, and moreover one who has been called a “national treasure,” is that there are very few who can tell me what I may and may not write.

Be warned, then: the collected volumes of this series will contain frozen mountains, foetid swamps, hostile foreigners, hostile fellow countrymen, the occasional hostile family member, bad decisions, misadventures in orienteering, diseases of an unromantic sort, and a plenitude of mud. You continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. If my humble words convey even a fraction of that wonder, I will rest content.

We must, of course, begin at the beginning, before the series of discoveries and innovations that transformed the world into the one you, dear reader, know so well. In this ancient and nearly forgotten age lie the modest origins of my immodest career: my childhood and my first foreign expedition, to the mountains of Vystrana. The basic facts of this expedition have long since become common knowledge, but there is much more to the tale than you have heard.

Marie Brennan
A Natural History of Dragons

compelled to begin once again

February 20, 2020

“A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” Nabokov’s philosophy on reading is not only a plea to revisit texts in general, but another strategic clue for the reader, suggesting there is more to find in his own works, more to be unravelled. Ever playful with literary structure, Nabokov’s texts themselves encourage the reader to revisit what they have just read. By revealing their nuanced structure towards the end, the reader feels compelled to begin once again, and connect the dots that were left isolated, with this new knowledge. The circular structure of Nabokov’s novel The Gift, is perhaps the best example of this, as the protagonist states he will go on to write a novel of the same name in the final chapter, creating a curiously satisfying mise en abyme.

Matt Janney
Nabokov, 40 years on: 13 things you probably didn’t know about the Lolita novelist
The Calvert Journal 6th July 2017

steadily write novels

February 20, 2020

From the age of nine or ten, I was passionately certain I would be a writer when I grew up.

Now I’m forty-two, and my first book has just come out.

If I could talk to ten-year-old me about this, she would be appalled. What have I been doing for the last thirty-two years? Shouldn’t I have had a novel out by twenty? That was always the plan. I was going to get my career started early, get popular, get rich, buy a house in the country, fill it with dogs (I was ten. Dogs were still better than boys.), and steadily write novels while simultaneously answering letters from my adoring fans. It was my destiny to be a writer. I had a knack for writing stories, and I loved doing it, so how could I not succeed? As I progressed through my teens, I started picking up those writing and publishing guides no one buys any more because all the information is online now. There was no Internet during my teens. We got our first computer when I was thirteen, and it wasn’t connected to anything but the wall. I learned about the publication process the way I learned about everything else: by going to the library.

Boomers tend to heap scorn on Millennials for being entitled enough to assume they deserve to achieve their dreams. Everyone forgets about Generation X. We were told from the beginning that our dreams were ridiculous and unachievable. We should try, of course, but we shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. So my expectations about my writing were always kind of split in two. I was sure I was a good writer; I was sure I was a terrible writer. I knew I would succeed; I knew I would fail. I sent out a manuscript in my early twenties and was kindly rejected by a small publisher, and even though I knew this was something every writer went through and I should just suck it up and try again, I somehow stopped sending stuff out after that. It was the writing I enjoyed, not the attempt to figure out a publisher’s guidelines from the brief and inaccurate entry in some publishing guide or other and the agonising wait for the rejection to come in the mail. I churned out novels and put them away on shelves. I told myself I was “practising.”

Kari Maaren
Debuting at Forty-Two or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Writing Process