Friday, June 7, 2013

Crossing Genres - Fairy Tales, French Horns, and Fierce Poetry

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”

Tabatha Yeatts hosts Poetry Friday today, so when you finish here, travel over to her place for lots more poetry.

On each Friday in May, our Friends of the Library group sponsored "Tea and Tales," a bring your own teacup musical event featuring the local university's delightful French horn professor and accompanying Russian graduate student pianist. The focus each week was musical compositions that told stories.

Yes, I took my own teacup and filled it with peach tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the continental U.S. I settled in with my tea and cookies, prepared to relinquish every item on my to do list and simply enjoy the music. But alas, the writer in me forced me to set my teacup on the floor beside my seat in the auditorium and dig out my notebook and pen. Ah, yes, this got me started thinking about crossing genres. Not taking up the piano again, my track record for getting the rhythm out of my fingers onto the keys was never very good, but the way ideas and themes and stories cross genres.

The piece Dr. Hansen brought to us was the second movement of a chamber piece for piano and horn composed by Dennis LeClaire, called "Three Fairy Tales, for horn and piano." The second movement? Thumbelina!

Thumbeline. Illustrated by Lissbeth Zwerger. Newly Translated from the Danish by Richard and Clare Winston.
New York: William Morrow and Company, 1980.

Click this link to hear an excerpt from the piece. You'll need to scroll down the page a bit to click the play button. Listen and imagine the tiny little girl trapped on a lily pad. You can hear the horn calling out to her.

Did you know Hans Christian Andersen was a poet? I don't think I did. His fairy tale fame diminishes any remembering of a poem he might have written. But he wrote hundreds. Not many are available in English, but here is one with poetry as his subject.

The Native Land of Light

There is a lovely Land
We call it Poetry
It reaches to the Sky
You’ll find it in a Rosebud

Its a Melody of Love
Lives on its greenest, heav’nly Shore

And there the Song of Bliss
Is like each Day you know

God is near
you can feel
That God is near
And old times live there

The Wise and Noble tremble
So grand it is, so rich

A Golden Hindustan
The Home of Melody

The Holy Land, by God,
It stands when Worlds will fade away
We call it Poetry
That Native Land of Light

                     —Hans Christian Andersen
                        Translation—Per Nørgård as lyrics for a choral piece

The native land of light. I love that description of poetry. And did you notice that this translation was lyrics for a choral piece? Crossing genres again. But then, Andersen understood music, too.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” 

And Thumbelina's story is the basis of this poem by Bernadette Geyer that I leave you with.

Thumbelina’s Mother Speaks: To the Toad’s Mother

With each year’s passing, grief dilutes itself
within my body, portioned out the way
a flash flood ultimately finds a meek
abode to welcome every soiled drop.
In letting go, I learned to be a “good”
mother, the kind who disciplines herself
to think only of what’s best for her child.
Of course, that’s why you seized her for your son—
deluded as you were to think she’d stay.
The sky is never bluer than we dare
imagine it to be.

Read the rest here, then try your own poetic response to a fairy tale.


  1. I like that illustration, too, Doraine! What a lovely post, to bring us music, art and the poetry. I wonder about that final line in the Thumbelina poem, don't you? I understand it, but it is quite startling. Thanks also for telling about Hans Christian Andersen's poetry. No, I didn't know, but I do love his fairy tales!

  2. I enjoyed your thoughts about crossing genres. There really is more that binds artists of all kinds together than separates them. I also love your idea of a writing a poetic response to a fairy tale.

    Violet N.

  3. "Tea and Tales" sounds like a treat, and poetic responses to fairy tales are some of my favorites! Thanks, Dori. (And you included flowers, too!)

  4. Love that "sky" ending! Also, "to travel is to live." xo

  5. Wow! One thing really led to another (and another) for you (and us)!!

  6. Wow. The images, the poetry, the music, the stories--all add up to a very rich experience. I love "grief dilutes itself within my body." That explains why it's so exhausting.