Anna Maria Hong re-imagines and extends the tale of Hansel and Gretel, breaking its received patterns of abandonment and abuse. Survivor, artist, hero, G.'s decisive action at the Witch's oven becomes the kernel of a new identity, independent and resilient, capable of transforming cruel stories into a cunning, masterful feminist bildungsroman

Image result for Anna Maria Hong, H & G,
Anna Maria Hong, H & G, Sidebrow Books, 2018.
excerpt
excerpt 2
excerpt 3




In this hybrid novella of trauma and survival, Anna Maria Hong re-imagines and extends the tale of Hansel and Gretel, breaking its received patterns of abandonment and abuse to set G. to wander a world racialized and gendered by power dynamics at every turn. Survivor, artist, hero, G.'s decisive action at the Witch's oven becomes the kernel of a new identity, independent and resilient, capable of transforming cruel stories into a cunning, masterful feminist bildungsroman.


“I shoved her into that oven because I instinctively knew that it would be the end to something that I had already felt working its way around me like a fog or a cloud of smoke, a pattern, in the old parlance. I killed her because I didn’t want to hear another heroic or awful story from those vehement lips, another woe—rational or ludicrous—from this person who could not break the habit of malice in spite of her extraordinary powers.”

"In H & G, Anna Maria Hong brilliantly re-visions the 'Hansel and Gretel' fairytale for the post-post-modern 21st century. Or explodes it, producing a text brimming with biting wit, feminist insight, psychological incisiveness, and a hybrid narrative daring that turns genre on its head. G., a 'Korean American fraülein' who is 'sick of the high road' is willing to tear the whole fantasy edifice of our illusions down as she journeys toward deeper truths, and thankfully, she and H. take us along for their sometimes-frightening, always enlightening rides." --John Keene




"H & G is more than a fractured fairy tale for the Doom Generation. It's a mordantly funny dismantling of loss and abandonment, a game of Chutes & Ladders played by Angela Carter and the Woolf of Orlando, a spider that waits for its victim to stop struggling before moving in. It suggests that the great escape is just the prelude to an unhappily ever after in which old traumas collapse under the weight of new discoveries. It is a brilliant, bracing book." --Josh Emmons

"This prose, built closely beside one of the most primeval European tales, is full of delectably strong phrasal nuggets and more. Anna Maria Hong unfastens and opens the original narrative, filling in all the icy distress that we already know, then adds the allure of burning sugar." --Stacey Levine



Gretel is all grown up but still lost in the wilderness of her own psychology in this acute and eerie reimagining of the classic fairy tale.
Hong's (Age of Glass, 2018) rendering of the iconic story includes all the familiar elements: A faithless father and wicked stepmother abandon two children in an enchanted wood, where they meet a hungry witch in her candy house. The traditional focal point of the story is when brave Gretel rescues her brother by pushing the witch into the oven, but—while the book deals with the grisly (and sticky) aftermath of the witch's demise in queasy detail—in this iteration the reader is directed to consider what comes next. H. and G. have returned home to their father's cottage and grown up. H., who "had always wanted to go home," who "wanted badly to believe that his Father loved him...that it was only temporary insanity that had made him pack his children off into the forest," has kept living the life that was meant for him before his abandonment. G., on the other hand, has remained the same girl "who had survived a great trial through remarkable grit, force, luck, and ruthless decisiveness" and has left home at the age of 10 with nothing but a small red box and her abbreviated name. Both H. and G. carry with them the laborious scars of their childhood, and Hong brings to bear her considerable formal talents as a poet as she explores the nuances of those scars. Told in the form of poems, lists, outlines, dreams, and endless, cyclical alternatives, the book pushes past the blueprint of the story's original framework and delves into the hazy realms of identity, memory, pain, and healing. Eventually, Hong comes to a specific and slippery truth about the societies we embed ourselves within: "Abundance and logic can cure everything but heartache and the drive to drown it or kill it."
In a book that is part tale, part confession, part scholarly analysis, Hong occasionally gets lost in the luxury of her own language. What remains, however, rises above a simple modernization to gleam as tantalizing and as strange as the wink of a pane of sugar glass glimpsed through the boughs of the deep, dark woods. - Kirkus Reviews




Our culture’s obsession with fairy tales and superheroes is both a premodern revival of myth and a form of compulsiveness. It doesn’t matter that Spiderman has been played by multiple actors or that Disney creates microvariants of identical coming-of-age stories. Myths are meant to be retold, and the more retelling, the greater their power. Nor does it matter when the work winks at the audience with an awareness of artifice and convention. (See Guardians of the Galaxy, or Robert Coover’s debauched fairy tales.) Skepticism is a crucial component of the genre, as fairy tales are not just about first enthrallment, but the full cycle of spell, disillusionment, and reenchantment. The fact that a spell is always ready to wear off defines its power—its precariousness stakes its claim. Artifice must be rewoven, if only by force. In this regard, irony is merely the self-awareness that we are doomed to repeat stories that are not our own.   
 
Anna Maria Hong’s H & G takes a different approach as it brilliantly tells and retells the Hansel and Gretel tale, in prose and verse. Unlike Coover’s postmodern fairy tales, however, H & G does not ultimately reenact cycles of disillusionment and forced reenchantment. Taking its inspiration from the trajectory of the story’s original heroes, it models an escape from enchantment into a more fully human realm.
 
Repetition frames the book’s structure, as H & G spins out alternative beginnings, middles, and ends to the story, such as one where the children, having burned the Witch’s house, enact the same vengeance on the cottage of the father who abandoned them. In another, trapped in a different home, they dissolve a steel floor with their tears. There is a “New Witch,” who suckles the adult H every day in a ritual that supposedly allows the world to continue.
 
Certainly, in Hong’s art, myth and fairy tale have a recurring, traumatic power. The book begins:
 
The candy gets on the inside because we eat it and eat it like thieves, like children under a great burr of clouds made by a god in a slothful mood.
The candy gets on the outside and sticks like tragedy, marking us as the worst type of person.
 
This “stickiness” is not just compulsive story-(re)telling but also the suffering inflicted by a genre that traffics in misogyny. In H & G, G is a “Korean American Fraulein,” and the book explores the development of the hero’s independent cultural identity in a world full of abusive, white, Anglo-Saxon figures and stories—like the violent Grimm tales and the monsters who populate them. A case study in this recapitulating narrative of trauma is the Witch, a frustrated artist and community activist who enslaves H & G to focus on her life’s work of building candy houses. Beaten as a child and harassed as the only woman at the “Institute of Culinary Rheology and Design,” the Witch’s main failing is that she reenacts the cycle of abuse she experienced. G’s act is to sever that cycle:
 
I shoved her into that oven because I instinctively knew that it would be the end to something that I had already felt working its way around me like a fog or a cloud of smoke, a pattern, in the old parlance. I killed her because I didn’t want to hear another heroic or awful story from those vehement lips, another woe—rational or ludicrous—from this person who could not break the habit of malice in spite of her extraordinary powers.
 
As in this passage, H & G enacts a demystification—“the end to something” that’s a “fog” of compulsive reenactment. The power of Hong’s art is first to construct and then dissolve the frame of myth. Hers is an abjuring magic. Part of this return to reality is accomplished through the book’s deeply original voice—both detached and brutal, lucid and ludicrous—which tends to resolve and thereby dismiss absurd, received situations in a moment of clarity and insight. In terms of plot, we learn that G has long departed the magical wood, recognizing her brother’s moral laziness and her father’s murderous abandonment. She travels far over the sea:
 
[doing] many jobs that would satisfy many bosses in different lands: picking oranges in the South, serving beer to the pale men and occasionally women in L________, gathering signatures for the population counts in R______, selling books of mostly low value in the big city of B________, and of course more cleaning and carting and lifting.
 
This is not to say that escaping the loop of reenchantment necessarily means happiness. G’s misfortunes continue, sometimes echoing her original trauma but taking different, pointedly ordinary forms. A mentor sexually harasses her. She meets a man who promises to show G a realm “under the bed,” which turns out to be unromantic, dusty space. Over time, G eventually realizes that her situation is not archetypal and timeless, but unluckily her particular experience:
 
It was another thirty years before G felt that very few people wanted to eat her or do her monstrous harm. Most people, she concluded, had enough of a handle on themselves to be indifferent, and only a few were wired to commit murder, cannibalism, child sacrifice.
 
To avoid repetition is not entirely possible—as G reflects, “We did not know what spell the Witch had cast to make us feel that things were not over.” And since compulsion is born of trauma, and racism and misogyny help enact it, there’s an understanding that repetition is part of the nature of the world. It is, however, possible to grow up, and to become a person who both confronts oppressors with their own fire, and who can also “walks away from misery” to stand, like G does finally, outside “the great and terrible stories.” In their place, Hong leave us with stories that are more ours to tell:
 
Some endings cannot be rewritten, and that’s alright. The ones who did the damage must want to be forgiven. In the meantime, put down the stone that wishes for rescue. Step through door after door without looking back. Be in the new strange.
- David Greenberg in Iowa Review






Hong Cover Age of Glass.jpg
Anna Maria Hong, Age of Glass, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2018.


"'The engine of alchemy / was rage. The small man's history of winning / was long but irrelevant,' remarks Anna Maria Hong midway through AGE OF GLASS. This caustic suite of ludic sonnets upcycles old stories--myths, fairytales, fables, clichés--into bright, prismatic spells for the end of days. 'Slant reuses / the cant of the box,' the canny speaker incants. 'A palindrome pulse / recalibrates luck.' Open this book to any page and you'll be met with lines so timely, so tonic, and so lexically dexterous you'll feel enchanted, however fleetingly, to cohabit this age."--Suzanne Buffam

"Like the 17th-century Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, whose sonnets echo and upstage a notably male and European literary tradition, Anna Maria Hong demonstrates in her own labyrinthine sonnets 'the monstrous breadth' of her poetic abilities, offering in them radical interpretations of myths and fairy tales that speak to our time and dazzle us with their wit and linguistic virtuosity. No one is writing like Anna Maria Hong in this AGE OF GLASS."--Rosa Alcalá

"Anna Maria Hong's poems--in this case a book of astoundingly innovative sonnets--confirm to us the credo we store in our hearts: that with intelligence, musicality and a love of language poetry can make any subject compelling and revelatory. But it takes a poet with a rare talent like Anna Maria Hong to make us see and joyously declaim what we believe. AGE OF GLASS is a book I've been hoping to read for a long time, from a poet whose work I've admired for a longer time."--Khaled Mattawa


"The sonnet, that most venerable of verse forms, can never go out of fashion for long, because there's always someone out there revitalizing it. One such someone is Anna Maria Hong, whose terrific book, AGE OF GLASS, consists almost exclusively of sonnets that revel in the intricacies of their artifice. Anna Maria Hong will build a poem on variants of a rhyme (misogynist, grist, zest, testy, beast), exulting in the surprises in store when you let the sounds of the words direct you to their meanings: 'Like a moron one persists, like a priest / or catechist chanting at a bris.' But her verbal brilliance is not all this poet offers. She gives us life in its raw vitality. We see through AGE OF GLASS darkly but accurately. Sometimes she makes us laugh: 'The fuck you in me crosses the street to / avert the fuck you in you.' Fierce intelligence is always at work, whether the subject is a figure of myth or fable (such as Cassandra, Pandora, Circe, and Medea) or the 'ages' of woman and man."--David Lehman



Hong torques the traditional sonnet in her exceptional debut collection, finding new ways to tease out eye-opening elements from the venerable form. Though she mostly resists end rhyme in favor of internal musicality, rarely does a reader encounter such successful, winking inner rhyme. In “A Parable,” one of the few non-sonnets here, Hong writes, “it was on to the hermitage, the last stage,// where we would presage the image of ecstasy/ and thus emboss our legacies.” Where other poems might bow under the weight of these sonics, or risk mimicking the limerick, in Hong’s deft hands the rhymes create a propulsive effect. She evokes the aged as often as the contemporary, filling her poems with religious iconography and Greek mythology as well as such modern affectations as “blah, blah, blah.” Yet as Hong shows in “The Ivory Box,” it is the human that stays sacred; her speaker avows, with an almost visible smile, “I’m the holy stuff,/ the nod blown up inside your head.” Here is a history that doesn’t progress but circles back on itself, the titular age revealed as a permanently fragile, transparent state. - Publishers Weekly




Generally speaking, poetry reviews and fiction reviews keep to different sides of the room. After all, a novella is a different form than a sonnet, with different limitations, rhythms, and expectations tied closely to word limits and structures. It’s easiest to compare apples to apples, rather than apples to peaches.
But Anna Maria Hong’s Age of Glass, a poetry collection of sonnets (both traditional and mutated), and her novella H & G (a postmodern prose collage based on Hansel and Gretel) go deep into the modernized fairytale in ways that make the two books seem more related than separate.
Of these two projects published in 2018, she says:
“I started drafting the poems in Age of Glass in the mid-aughts and ended up working on that collection for 14 years. The initial idea was to draft 100 sonnets, although I found that I liked writing them and interrogating and stretching the form so much that I just kept going, drafting well over 300 sonnets over about seven years, and then revised and shaped those into a collection. One of the main strands in Age of Glass are the fairy tale- and myth-inspired poems, most of which are dramatic monologues from the points of view of female characters whom I wanted to imbue with more agency and idiosyncrasy than they inhabit in the old tales. I was aware of working in a feminist tradition of reworking received stories to spin new meanings and found that approach very satisfying—a way to reclaim personal voice as well.
In the sonnets comprising Age of Glass, Hong can take poetic compression and beautiful play with language to surprise and delight the reader:
Every age an age of glass. A slipper shoes
the foot, takes giant steps of tock and tick,
a cone blown, known gone, glass is fashioned, metal
spun to color, mineral made light,
and this is the last poem I will write
Glass is sand is time falling loose
A gap of glass is wrapping, a bottle
( ) or swan ( ) of the human whose
hand will flip the glass, grabbing it
by the neck. Every time a nick.
And it is our glass to raise and smash.
A female silhouette, a shape, a vase
With two closed ends, one met. Two cones have kissed.
And the skin of our limit is glass.
Movement through Age of Glass is fast but covers a lot of literary ground. Poems in the collection span mineral-named ages, to then encompass Greek myths, to explore then icons of enchantment like tonics, boxes of many colors, to Little Red Riding Hood’s hood, to qualities passed down only through the mother (hologynic), to the riddle of the Sphinx. Not all pieces are strict sonnets, but they all apply the same condensation rigor to the line and require similar attention to the musicality of the phrasing and end words.
Hong writes of the novella H & G that it “was a much faster project, and I embarked on it after having retold the tale in at least one poem featuring the twins, as I think of them. The Grimms’ version of Hansel and Gretel always fascinated and bothered me, as it resonates with many of the themes that animate my writing in general: hunger and greed, bad decisions with terrible consequences for others, abandonment, unequal treatment based on gender, and triumphing through trauma. The tale also features a female protagonist, as it’s Gretel or G. who takes decisive action to dispense with the Witch and save herself and her brother, and I wanted to explore the different choices that each character makes in the face of trauma and its aftermath. I’d always thought it improbable that they would just return to their father’s cottage after all that, and I also wanted to create a middle and an ending that arrive somewhere other than the original domicile.”
Here, in the opening lines of the “Sticky Stuff” section that opens the book, Hong warns us that candy is not merely candy and that she will be delving into the worst aspects of this fairytale.
“The candy gets on the inside because we eat it and eat it like thieves, like children under a great burr of clouds made by a god in a slothful mood.
The candy gets on the outside and sticks like tragedy, marking us as the worst type of person. It sticks at the worst time.
What was the worst time? We can’t remember it, but we can feel it like a smear of embers inside our small chests…”
In the rest of the novella, Hong pulls no punches describing the emotions around parental abandonment, untrustworthy adults, different ways of getting lost. How Gretel, the clever one of the duo and the only one who sees the witch for who she is, copes with the aftermath: therapy, imagined different outcomes, confronting the father and evil stepmothers, confronting race, gender and class bigotries that emerge as their story is re-interpreted by people who were never there to save them.
We see how the witch fell in love with H (but also wants to consume him). We see how the Witch makes Gretel feed H, continuing his passiveness and apathy toward real danger. We see many variations on the escape from the house as the site of trauma, relived in memory and dreams. And the rescuer, the Huntsman (called Ranger P. Charming in one section) – is he sinister or a cardboard cutout of a friendly figure? What happens to children who grow up, never able to relax their vigilance?
And what of Hong’s next project, Fablesque, which focuses on animal tales and fables rather than humans and will come out from Tupelo Press in 2020.
Of the upcoming book, Hong says, it is “more directly autobiographical than my previous work, as I relate some familial stories, which intersect with the partitioning of the Korean peninsula into North and South, as that event and World War II and the Korean War dramatically impacted both of my parents’ lives and those of their families, as well as everyone living in Korea during the mid-20th century.
“I think of these familial stories as akin to the fairy tale and myth in their intensity and their outsized effect on young minds and hearts, although of course, these tales are true and informed by large historical forces. One of the questions that I continue to explore is how one can re-shape received tales of all kinds to give more agency to the listener/reader/writer, so that rather than being caught up in someone else’s narrative, she has the power to harness those tales to shape her own destiny.” - Betsy Aoki
http://www.iexaminer.org/2018/07/age-of-glass-fairytales-deconstructed-for-our-times/


Oh, the delight, when, after thinking about American sonnets for some weeks here at the Kenyon Review blog, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center released Anna Maria Hong’s debut poetry collection, Age of Glass, winner of its First Book Competition. Like Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, forthcoming in June, Hong’s book-length sonnet sequence, published in April, both engages with and subverts its tradition. Unlike Hayes’s “American Sonnets,” in which the visual density of a single fourteen-line stanza reinforces the lack of a set end-rhyme scheme and directs the reader instead toward the dense internal musicality of Hayes’s lines, Hong’s sonnets often take Shakespearean form with three quatrains and final couplet, cuing the reader to metrical choices, end-rhyme schemes, and stanzaic moves. This is not to say that Hong’s sonnets are any less internally dense or wild in their musicality than Hayes’s; to the contrary, both seem to use their versions of the sonnet form to provide the seams at which to burst with sheer imaginative and linguistic force.
With a dizzying range of diction and willingness to follow word play and pattern while bleeding between our own contemporary world and worlds of fairy tale and myth, Hong’s sonnets in Age of Glass seem to continue some of the conversations initiated by the poets of Stephanie Burt’s discussion of “Elliptical” and “Nearly Baroque” poets. The titular glass seems to speak to the collection’s forms and materials – Hong’s language as a substance of glitter and shine, shaped under high heat, the finely wrought artifice of which can then be shattered and wielded as a formidable weapon.
I find transition from one state to another and the taking of both social and personal power and agency to be compelling concerns at the core of the collection, often viewed through a gendered lens (“For the carried / margin. For the feminine conclusion” [64]), and enacted through both physical and narrative shattering, explosion, or rending:
“The world would crack extravagantly spent, / a shining exemplar or ornament” (3), “In the distance, always / the glass sea breaking. It was our time to savage” (5), “a way to blunt the need / for evidence of our humanity / and return the universe to light and speed” (7), “The angels turned me / like a face and gave me a new name, turned / my face like revolution” (9), “I’m the holy stuff, / the nod blown up inside your head” (11), “interest dipped, tinted, rinsed, and fenced, / looped and linked like a tarnished chain reaction” (22), “grip it, strip it, flip it hard– / ramp my shard” (27), “The world has burned her skin to make another” (48).
Here, Pandora ends her myth, “I flipped my lid and changed my name to Sally” (15), the old woman who lived in a shoe declares, “‘No music will uncap / the shoe. We must unhorn it with ourselves” (25), and the “newfound foundlings . . . give fate a firm shove” (26). In these reworkings, as elsewhere in the collection, the dynamics are sufficiently complicated, leaving the reader to think and rethink the implications, as in this new Aesopian dialogue:
“Goodbye, luck, you idiot,”
said the Fox to the Grapes.
“I love you,” replied the Grapes. (27)
Hong embeds poetic remixes within her castings of fairy tale and myth, with Eliot’s Prufrock respun in familiar idiom in “Persephone” (“The seed was my ticket to plummet. Each / to each, the fat lady sang to me” [16]), and Bishop’s “Casabianca” echoed in “Circe” (“The former us in me would like / to be jettisoned too or at least have / a deck to leap from” [14]). The poems reflect on themselves as poetry and literature, reflect on themselves as reflections:
“First, let’s find a future infant matron // and a falling apart version of the f***** up / fairy tale fiction of the fraternal Grimm” (26), “The King is bored by my antics, which are / after all, useless . . . I become the Minister of Implication, // my senses enriched as uranium / and no less stable” (28), “Give me liberty through diction and / fiction refined as sugar and oil– / product and process, again, again” (29), “Done with iambics, I wrote / the following instead” (30), “Come and tempt me, / mimetic” (35), “What this caper // slash tragedy needs is a new beginning, middle, / and ending” (36), “The morals vary, but not really” (44), “I’m writing this up for no one you know” (62), “I raise my voice / inside your throat; I hum a viral children’s / storyline” (65),
There are poems that willfully engage the absurd, particularly those that insist upon a particular repeated sound throughout. The reader who thinks sound’s an unsound engine, who can’t handle Hong at her “Bloom // a planetarium or a sherpa qua valium ferrying the blahs, / a chrome dome harem through the chutzpah of time” (49) and her “Rover / at the clavier, riven averrer and tourniquet // remover, glutting on slivers from the striver’s / market, surfing the quaver like a bouquet flower” (42), should perhaps seek more plainspoken poems elsewhere. But for the rest of us, here is language both ductile and brittle, both seductive and resistant. There are also moments of great clarity, as in the ending of “The Hologynic”:
I could go anywhere.
I had no fear. The gods I’d known were dead
inside me, where such things apparently
matter. I was ferociously happy.
But the clarity isn’t the “reward” for the twists and turns and puns and play – they’re inseparable facets of the same intense making. The release of Hong’s and Hayes’s sonnet collections in the same season only underscores the individuality (and glorious talents!) of both poets, revealing the alchemy that can result when an individual voice and vision engage with (both reveling in and interrogating) poetic constraint. “I lock you in a form that is part music box, part meat / Grinder,” writes Hayes. “Box is Noah’s boat. Box is a bully / pulpit. Box is the antagonist in / a one-person show. Box is fully // present. Box is heart, blood, womb, and skin,” writes Hong (59). - Dora Malech
https://www.kenyonreview.org/2018/05/age-of-glass/





The sonnet is inexhaustible. Magnetic, mesmerizing, bewitching, nearly every poet is drawn to the form at some point in their career, whether they long to write the perfect sonnet, the Shakespearean, Petrarchan or Spenserian, or they desire to break the form, queer it, manipulate it, celebrate its mutability; they want to discover what magic can happen within those fourteen lines. For some poets the rule of the fourteen line is the only rule they follow, for others it’s the volta that defines the sonnet; poets like Ted Berrigan and Bernadette Mayer have loosened the sonnet into a mere skeleton of form. Other poets, Anna Maria Hong among them, are drawn to the challenge of formalism itself, and use the form to crystalize their own language. For all poets, even the most plainspoken, are drawn to the mysterious power of sound.
Anne Carson wrote in “The Glass Essay,” “It is as if we have all been lowered into an atmosphere of glass,” and this is the atmosphere of Anna Maria Hong’s debut collection Age of Glass. Inspired by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka’s 19th century glass sculptures, one which graces the cover of this collection, Hong’s sonnets are akin to these gorgeous specimens of blown glass. The Blaschkas, Hong explains in her notes, were glass replicas of natural specimens, most often plants and invertebrate creatures. Within them science and art comingle, as within the sonnet where an almost mathematical formalism is brought to life with the breath, the way glass is formed also by the breath—the breath of the artist trapped inside, preserved. And yet, we no longer see the breath of the artist or poet, but what was formed by it.
Hong’s innovative sonnets elevate the natural and human world by preserving it, and yet these sonnets also break the glass or disfigure the glass, “it is our glass to raise and smash,” to allow for deeper truths about sexism, misogyny, and power structures, to emerge:
“Ma beauté, some men are continents, others,
trinkets.” So said some French philosopher
or would have said, if he weren’t so sexist…
                        (“Champion Under Wood”)
The anti-Christ was good, but the Misogynist
was superhuman. An A-list antagonist,
not your quotidian vermin, the kind of beast
who makes women apologize to exist.
                         (“Plainest Hymn”)
And yet, Hong is less interested in thematics than she is with language itself, the poems in Age of Glass revolve around language, one might say the thinginess of language. Hong’s poems often feel as if sprung from their rhymes and their rhythms, creating poems highly aware of their own artifice, poems that at times critique the artifice of the sonnet historically, particularly love sonnets. In “King Worm,” Hong constructs an entire sonnet out of four words “I” “do” “love” “you” as if searching for the finite number of configurations within those words, and within love itself, but also underlining the futile elements of language as well. At the center of these sonnets is subversion, Hong works to expose cracks in the glass of language, fairytales, myths, and fables and with her pen she makes more cracks. In the Age of Glass, anything can break, and many things perhaps should be broken.
Grimm’s fairytales are deconstructed, refracted, and retold to reflect their injustices. In “F, H & G” Hong uses the letter F to recast the tale of Hansel and Gretel in a frustrated light:
…First let’s find a future infant matron
and a falling apart version of the f***** up
fairy fiction of the fraternal Grimm.
At forest’s fringe, our agon begins,
as fur-clad, feral children fling crumbs from

fastidious limbs. Full of fail, unfettered,
these orphans are furious, as only those who
find themselves flung can be. Their futile litter

has fueled their hunger for the candy house
of revenge. These newfound foundlings, forsaken twins—
one fat, one finally fed up—give fate a firm shove.
“[G]ive fate a firm shove,” an action most characters caught within such diabolical fairytales wish they could do—something we’ve all wanted to do at times. Hong, in reinventing fairytales and myths gives fate a firm shove, and allows for goddesses like Persephone to escape the heroine/victim cycle and speak with a voice from this age, “Believe it or not,” Persephone says, “I’ve been better off dead.”

In many ways, Anne Maria Hong’s Age of Glass is a challenging book, it is riddled with riddles, puzzles, cast spells, elixirs, pure language play; the poems are as obscure and opaque as they are clear and dazzling. It is this unexpected texture and Hong’s degree of experimentation with formalism that makes this book both exciting and relevant. Hong concludes the opening poem, “The Copper Age” with the lines, “The world would crack extravagantly spent, / a shining exemplar or ornament.” This collection is at times a shining exemplar of the sonnet and a linguistic ornament, but it is at its best when illuminating the cracks in world and transforming them through language into art. -
http://greenmountainsreview.com/recasting-the-sonnet-review-of-anna-maria-hongs-age-of-glass/





Anna Maria Hong, FABLESQUE, Tupelo Press's Berkshire Prize, forthcoming in 2019.

Comments