'Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny' by Lisel Mueller
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Jenny, your mind commands
kingdoms of black and white:
you shoulder the crow on your left,
the snowbird on your right;
for you the cinders part
and let the lentils through,
and noise falls into place
as screech or sweet roo-coo,
while in my own, real, world
gray foxes and gray wolves
bargain eye to eye,
and the amazing dove
takes shelter under the wing
of the raven to keep dry.
Knowing that you must climb,
one day, the ancient tower
where disenchantment binds
the curls of innocence,
that you must live with power
and honor circumstance,
that choice is what comes true--
oh, Jenny, pure in heart,
why do I lie to you?
Why do I read you tales
in which birds speak the truth
and pity cures the blind,
and beauty reaches deep
to prove a royal mind?
Death is a small mistake
there, where the kiss revives;
Jenny, we make just dreams
out of our unjust lives.
Still, when your truthful eyes,
your keen, attentive stare,
endow the vacuous slut
with royalty, when you match
her soul to her shimmering hair,
what can she do but rise
to your imagined throne?
And what can I, but see
beyond the world that is,
when, faithful, you insist
I have the golden key--
and learn from you once more
the terror and the bliss,
the world as it might be?
Submitted by David Shackelford
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deeper Dive into Lisel Mueller's "Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny"
As an avid reader, I’ve always been fascinated by the works of Lisel Mueller. Her masterful use of language and her ability to evoke complex emotions through her poems are simply breathtaking. And one of her most famous works, "Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny", is no exception.
This poem is a beautiful examination of the power of storytelling, of the way in which the tales we tell can shape our understanding of the world around us. Through her use of vivid imagery and her deep understanding of human nature, Mueller manages to create a world that is both enchanting and unsettling, leaving the reader with a sense of awe and wonder.
From the opening lines, Mueller draws us in with her evocative language. "When I read fairy tales to my daughter, I always felt I was dissembling, / letting her believe the world was as sweet and hopeful as the stories." This opening sets the tone for the poem, and it's clear that Mueller is going to delve deep into the complexities of storytelling and the way it can shape our perceptions of the world.
As she reads to her daughter, Mueller examines the way in which we use stories to create a sense of order and control in our lives. "But I came to think of the Grimm brothers / as doctors, who sewed up wounds / with stories, putting back into a child's ear / a tale for every terror." Here, Mueller is highlighting the way in which stories can be used to heal, to help us make sense of the world around us.
But as she continues to read to her daughter, Mueller begins to realize that the stories she is telling are not just stories, but myths that can shape the way we see the world. "Later, when I read them again to my granddaughter, / I heard the witch's fierce maternal love, / the stupid, greedy child, / and the children lost in the woods, / voices of my own childhood / rising like a darkened moon / over the Scandinavian forests."
Here, Mueller is showing us that the stories we tell ourselves are not just innocent fairy tales, but rather powerful myths that can shape our perceptions of the world. And while these myths can be beautiful and enchanting, they can also be dark and unsettling.
As the poem progresses, Mueller continues to explore the way in which stories can shape our perceptions of the world. "The tales were like a spice rack, / each tale the bitter or the sweet / the parents chose to sprinkle on the sting / of life's half-truths." Here, she is highlighting the way in which stories can be used to create a sense of order and control in our lives, to help us make sense of the chaos around us.
But as she continues to read to her granddaughter, Mueller begins to question the power of these stories. "I read them all, / letting the stories discover me, / but when I closed the book / she saw that I was crying, / What's the matter, she said, / did you forget how they all lived happily ever after?" Here, we see Mueller grappling with the darker side of storytelling, with the way in which these myths can be both beautiful and unsettling.
And yet, even as she questions the power of these stories, Mueller recognizes the importance of storytelling in our lives. "I wanted her to know that though / we dream of adventure and glory, / we live in a world that is often harsh and cruel, / and that in the end / the only thing that can protect us / is the stories we tell ourselves."
In conclusion, "Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny" is a powerful examination of the way in which stories can shape our perceptions of the world. Through her use of vivid imagery and her deep understanding of human nature, Mueller manages to create a world that is both enchanting and unsettling, leaving the reader with a sense of awe and wonder. This poem is a reminder of the power of storytelling, and the importance of the myths we tell ourselves to help us make sense of the world around us.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny: A Tale of Innocence and Imagination
Lisel Mueller's poem, Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny, is a beautiful and poignant piece of literature that captures the essence of childhood innocence and the power of imagination. Through the eyes of a young girl named Jenny, the poem explores the magical world of fairy tales and the transformative effect they can have on our lives.
The poem begins with the speaker reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny, who is described as a "little girl with yellow hair and a red bow." The scene is set in a cozy room, with the fire crackling and the wind howling outside. The speaker's voice is soft and soothing, and Jenny is completely absorbed in the story. As the speaker reads, Jenny's imagination takes flight, and she becomes completely engrossed in the world of the fairy tale.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the piece, with its vivid imagery and lyrical language. The speaker describes the scene in detail, painting a picture of a warm and inviting space that is a refuge from the cold and harsh world outside. The use of sensory language, such as the crackling fire and the howling wind, creates a sense of atmosphere and mood that draws the reader in.
As the poem progresses, the speaker describes the effect that the fairy tale has on Jenny. She becomes completely immersed in the story, and her imagination takes over. The speaker describes how Jenny "sees the forest and the castle / where the princess sleeps," and how she becomes "the princess, / brave and beautiful." This transformation is a testament to the power of imagination and the way in which stories can transport us to different worlds and realities.
The second stanza of the poem is particularly powerful, as it describes the way in which Jenny's imagination transforms her surroundings. The speaker describes how "the room grows darker, / the fire smaller, the wind outside / a wolf howling in the night." This imagery is both beautiful and haunting, and it captures the way in which stories can have a transformative effect on our perception of the world around us.
As the poem continues, the speaker describes the way in which Jenny's innocence and imagination are threatened by the harsh realities of the world. She describes how "the stories that fed her / begin to frighten her," and how Jenny becomes aware of the darkness and danger that lurks in the world. This shift in tone is a reminder of the fragility of childhood innocence and the way in which it can be shattered by the harsh realities of life.
The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful and poignant conclusion to the piece. The speaker describes how Jenny "grows up and forgets / the stories that made her." This is a reminder of the way in which we can lose touch with our imagination and our sense of wonder as we grow older. However, the poem ends on a hopeful note, with the speaker promising to "read to her again / the stories that made her."
Overall, Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of childhood innocence and the transformative power of imagination. Through the eyes of a young girl, the poem explores the way in which stories can transport us to different worlds and realities, and the way in which our perception of the world can be shaped by the stories we tell ourselves. It is a reminder of the importance of holding onto our sense of wonder and imagination, even as we grow older and face the harsh realities of life.
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