There are stories we tell ourselves and stories that are told to us. Often, the stories that are told to us are meant to determine and define us, or at least to fill us with an externally-defined morality code. Religious myths, fairytales, folk songs and folk stories—they become a part of our heritage, our collective knowledge, and identity. They inform the stories we tell ourselves, for good or bad.
Many writers have retold folk and fairytales as a way of reclaiming them, reversing the action, determining and defining the stories (think Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Anne Sexton’s Transformations, and Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch). Marcela Sulak takes a different tack to reclaim the myths and the tales. She takes apart (and often translates) the narratives to shine a light on the cultural and historical values they espouse, remaking the stories to be about their tellers, their intentions, and the impact they have even centuries later.
These deceptively straightforward prose poems/micro-essays are grounded in an oxymoron: moments that are both quotidian and defining, such as breaking (and reconciling) with family and choosing to marry (or not). The poems take wing when Sulak mirrors the personal narrative with a critical and whip-smart readings of Catholic and Judaic doctrine, European fairytales, and world folksongs, revealing the lens they often ask us to look through. Sulak travels from rural Texas to Tel Aviv, never blinking at the ambivalence of shared story. It is never so simple, as evident in Sulak’s epistolary, “dear yaupon with your poisoned berries aiming your leaves at random stars…”