Writing and Ruminating

Thoughts on writing, reading, and poetry. With the occasional diversion, bien sûr.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer and Josée Masse

Last week I purchased myself a copy of Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse. I had to buy it, you see, because I read the first three poems in the book ("In Reverse", "Cinderella's Double Life", and "The Sleeping Beauty and the Wide-Awake Prince"), plus at least one or two more from the middle, and I was so impressed by what Marilyn Singer pulled off that I simply had to shell out the $16.99 (plus tax) for the book in recognition of her accomplishment.

Singer has invented a form she calls the "reverso". As she explains in her note about the form at the end of the book, the first reverso she created was inspired by her cat. Within the book, the poems are all presented side by side, so I've done the best I can format-wise here. Here is Singer's first reverso, roughly as presented as in the author note:

A cat         Incomplete:
without       A chair
a chair:       without
Incomplete.a cat.

Singer went on to write a whole bunch of brilliant reversos based on fairy tales. What makes these poems brilliant is that they make perfect sense forwards and backwards - and they each tell two sides of the same story. They are all considerably longer than Singer's sample, and all of them are accompanied by outstanding illustrations by Josée Masse, a Canadian illustrator from Montreal, many of which tend to show the duality of the accompanying poems.

Take a look at the title poem and its illustration (one of my favorite illustrations in the book, for the way the mountain and mine opening complete the witch's face from the right side of the painting:





From start to finish, from art to text, this book is the total package, and is a work of genius. A must-have for fans of poetry, great art and/or fairy tales.

And yeah, I'll be trying to write a reverso sometime soon. Wish me luck. I know they're not easy to write, for I've seen comments by experienced poets such as Jane Yolen saying that they tried and failed. (Jane commented over at the review done by Jules at 7-Imp.

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