What Big Teeth–Red Riding Hood’s Real Life
Lana Hechtman Ayers
Kissena Park Press, 2010
Lana HechtmanAyers is a cyber-friend. I met her via an event she and Seattle poet Paul E. Nelson started in 2006, I think it was. Postcard Poems has become an annual August event. I’ve blogged about it most years, even posted the cards I’ve sent out, and their poems. It’s a great little exercise in not taking yourself too seriously, and you connect with lots of interesting folk, Lana being one of them. In the way of the world these days we became Facebook friends, and a couple of years ago when she started posting pictures of a forthcoming chapbook I was sufficiently moved by the cover image (see? if you were wondering, yes you can!) to order a copy.
The first story is not about light or apples.
The first story is about the woods,
the woman in the red hood, the Wolf.
So begins What Big Teeth, a collection of poems that explore the myth generated by the Little Red Riding Hood story, at the same time looking at other sorts of myths many of us grew up with. In this version of the tale, Red writes about getting hooked up with a man called Hunter because that’s what you did:
A mop and a man
to clean up after,
a frying pan,
a laying hen,
that was supposed to be
enough for any woman.
Things are less than sunny at Red and Hunter’s place. And then she meets Wolf, at an art museum, no less, and Red is smitten.
Oh, my mother warned me
their scented necks, their feral ways.
But she said nothing
about the cultured wolves,
the white glove kind.
Red discovers the world of art and in so doing, discovers herself.
Lost youth and art break you,
two foxes slipping away
into the underbrush.
I remember being home alone one time when I was about eleven or twelve. It was late spring, quite warm, and it started to rain. I suddenly wondered what it would feel like to be out in that rain, naked. Of course, I found out right away. (If you’re wondering, we lived in the country with no neighbors in eye-shot.) There’s something in these poems that make me remember that girl.
I used to love to walk
in the woods in the rain.
Mother said it was because
I was a brainless child,
stupid and wild.
In What Big Teeth, Lana Hechtman Ayers takes a bold look at coming of age and what it can mean to women.
She further explores the theme in a full-length poetry collection, also published in 2010 (Pecan Grove Press), entitled A New Red: a fairy tale for grownups. The poems in this book feel less raw, more worked on, delve deeper into the story, but I have to say I really have a soft spot for the chapbook ones, perhaps because of their rawness. I love the poet’s use of epigraphs throughout—a diverse parade of writers from e.e. cummings to Anne Sexton to Leonard Cohen to Alanis Morrissette to Gwendolyn Brooks to George Carlin add spice to what is already a rich soup of words. Bravo!