Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sleeping Beauty: Variation of the Prince by Randall Jarrell

The Complete Poems

The Complete Poems by Randall Jarrell contains several poems inspired by or at least drawing from fairy tales and folklore. Jarrell returned to Sleeping Beauty more than once as well as Swan Lake, but he also explored Cinderella and common fairy tale motifs in general. To explore his poems, click on the book above and then look inside the book on Amazon. Many of the poems are readable. And you'll see that one of his collections was even titled "Once Upon a Time."

I have to admit to an extra affection for Jarrell since he, like me, was a native Nashvillian. We even share the same high school alma mater and a plaque honoring him stands on the corner of that property. Of course, I was ignorant of his existence at the time, but discovered him through his fairy tale poems when I first browsed through Disenchantments: An Anthology of Modern Fairy Tale Poetry years ago.


In 1914, Randall Jarrell was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Vanderbilt University. From 1937 to 1939 he taught at Kenyon College, where he met John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell, and then at the University of Texas.

His first book of poems, Blood for a Stranger, was published in 1942, the same year he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He soon left the Air Corps for the army and worked as a control tower operator, an experience which provided much material for his poetry.

Jarrell's reputation as a poet was established in 1945, while he was still serving in the army, with the publication of his second book, Little Friend, Little Friend, which bitterly and dramatically documents the intense fears and moral struggles of young soldiers. Other volumes followed, all characterized by great technical skill, empathy with the lives of others, and an almost painful sensitivity.

Following the war, Jarrell accepted a teaching position at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and remained there, except for occasional absences to teach elsewhere, until his death. Even more than for his poems, Jarrell is highly regarded as a peerless literary essayist, and was considered the most astute (and most feared) poetry critic of his generation.
Today I am sharing a screen capture of his poem, "The Sleeping Beauty: Variation of the Prince." It is copyrighted and please honor that by not copying it out or posting it elsewhere. You can buy the entire book with all of his fairy tale influenced poetry or looking for it at your library.

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