Around Town: Asheville poet reimagines classic fairy tales

ONCE UPON A TIME: Rebecca Buchanan’s new collection of poems retells classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White. "I decided to sit down and see what happened if I looked at the stories from a different point of view or with a different emphasis or ethical imperative,” she says. Photo courtesy of Buchanan

Local poet and editor Rebecca Buchanan spent countless hours as a child curled up with library books about witches, princesses, knights and monsters. Nothing made her happier.

But as she got older, Buchanan started to have questions about the fairy tales and mythological stories she loved. Who wrote them? Why were witches always portrayed as villains? Why did princesses have to get married instead of being able to rule in their own right?

“The heroes were often clever, but some of them were pretty awful, too,” she remembers. “Why were they held up as models of behavior?”

Such questions led Buchanan to start exploring the stories from a different perspective in her own writing. Her new poetry collection, Not a Princess, But (Yes) There Was a Pea, and Other Fairy Tales to Foment Revolution, retells and reimagines classic stories with a modern eye.

“After the Kiss” is narrated by Sleeping Beauty, who awakes to find her family is dead and the people of the land don’t need a queen. “The Green Knight” mashes up American folk legend Johnny Appleseed with the Green Knight and Excalibur of Arthurian lore to tell a story about environmental stewardship and the threat of climate change.

Rapunzel, Snow White and Jack (of beanstalk fame) are among other characters who make appearances in the collection, recently published by Jackanapes Press.

Buchanan’s first book, Dame Evergreen and Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness, was less focused in its subject matter. “I found that centering my second collection on one theme, fairy tales, was much more satisfying and actually easier to write,” she says.

A practicing pagan and editor of the pagan literary e-zine Eternal Haunted Summer, Buchanan says modern literature lacks positive portrayals of polytheism and witchcraft.

“Since I’m a writer, most of my stories focus on that,” she says. “I write what I want to read but can’t find elsewhere.”

For more information or to buy the book, go to avl.mx/c3a

Hello, walls

Where most saw a blank wall, Drew Reisinger saw an opportunity.

Reisinger, the Buncombe County register of deeds, decided his office building’s west-facing wall at 205 College St. would be an ideal place for a mural reflecting the area’s people and values. County officials quickly agreed and expanded the idea to include two more government buildings, the county Tax Department at 94 Coxe Ave. and a parking deck at 164 College St.

Now Buncombe County is asking local artists to submit proposals for murals at those three spaces to promote racial equity, cultural diversity, and reconciliation and restoration. Proposals are due Friday, Nov. 11.

“Public art has the potential to be pleasantly disarming for folks who may have lost trust in or feel uneasy engaging with local government,” Reisinger says. “I think it’s important for a city like Asheville, which regularly benefits from a reputation of being progressive and inclusive, to be visually and publicly proactive in acknowledging both the harm that has and does occur on this land to BIPOC people.”

To see a video of the mural locations, go to avl.mx/c3d. To get details or to submit a proposal, visit avl.mx/c3e

Forest for the trees

Dakota Wagner says forest stewardship and conservation too often are reduced to simple numbers: amount of acres restored, number of trees planted, number of birds counted.

That’s why she thinks it’s important to tell the stories of the people behind conservation work. “It can help make forest stewardship feel like something everyone can connect with — and like something everyone can take part in,” says Wagner, Southeast region coordinator of the Forest Stewarts Guild.

Storytelling will be a big part of the ForestHer NC Mountains Region Gathering at Warren Wilson College on Saturday Oct. 29, 1-4:30 p.m. The event is part of a statewide initiative, ForestHer NC, which launched in August 2019 by a coalition of state and national conservation groups to support, educate and empower women landowners and natural resources professionals.

The event will include a hands-on bird-box building workshop, a portable sawmill demonstration by the student-led Warren Wilson Forestry Crew and a conservation storytelling session.

“There will be the opportunity for each participant to share about their forest stewardship journey,” Wagner explains. “In these sessions, people have talked about their land management successes, asked for advice from others and offered insight to questions they have found answers to.”

Registration is required, and tickets are $10. Registration closes at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. For more information or to register, go to avl.mx/c3h.

Word medicine woman

Meta Commerse, Story Parlor’s newest artist-in-residence, will present a one-woman show at the venue Thursday, Nov. 3, followed by a workshop on Thursday, Nov. 17. Both events are at 7 p.m.

Story Parlor is a cooperative arts space in West Asheville. Its Story/Arts Residency is dedicated to showcasing work of local storytellers of color as well as members from the LGBTQIA+ community and other historically marginalized communities.

Commerse is the author of five books and founder and CEO of Asheville-based Story Medicine Worldwide. She describes herself as “a word medicine woman and black boomer whose artistic home is rooted in stories and poems.”

The one-woman show “Romance, Jingles, and Dreams” will blend a monologue with music, images, movement and selected excerpts from her memoir Womaning. Her interactive “Story as Legacy” workshop will explore an African proverb that emphasizes that each time an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.

Story Parlor is at 227 Haywood Road. Tickets are available on a “pay what you can” sliding scale. To buy tickets for the Nov. 3 event, go to avl.mx/c3i. To buy tickets for the Nov. 17 event, go to avl.mx/c3j

Let the fur fly

FurEver Friends, a local animal rescue, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with The Great Gatsby Pawty on Saturday, Oct. 29, 4-9 p.m., at Ginger’s Revenge.

The event will feature music, food, a photo booth, musical performances, a silent auction and a costume contest. Admission is free, but donations will be appreciated.

Ginger’s Revenge is at 829 Riverside Drive, Suite 100. For more information about FurEver Friends and the event, go to avl.mx/c3m

 

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