“In Fairytales” by Emma Torzs was a part of the December Issue. Emma answers questions about secrets, poetry and fascination.
1. Do you ever shout at a protagonist in a fairy tale to not go in the castle/village/wolf’s mouth?
Nah. Unlike real life, their bad choices often result in marriage and riches and heightened social status, so who am I to judge? Especially in the newfangled stories — the wolf’s mouth is actually the mouth of a prince, or the creepy village is actually a glittering Wal-Mart, etc. The old-fashioned tales can be dangerous stuff, true, but therein lies the appalling fun of it. And I am all for fun. All for fun and fun for all! That’s my motto.
2. How are secrets a woman’s territory?
I was thinking, when I wrote that line, of the traditional “territory” of women: the house. The household. Whether wife or maid or daughter. And how most secrets go on behind closed doors, and what, for example, a female servant might be privy to that a man would never see: soiled linens, strands of unfamiliar hair, bloody knives… I was thinking also of the conversations women have with one another, and what amazing clandestine things emerge.
3. Who would you rescue from a tower?
Stock feminist answer: myself.
4. Why is poetry so fascinated with fairy tales and mythology?
It seems to me that many people are artistically drawn to fairy tales — writers and theorists and painters and all those types who do a lot of thinking and unpacking. The stories are something of an easy target: visually rich, mired in the sexist/racist/classist bog of social history, multiply-recorded, often-retold. Utterly mutable through the years and the tellings (the Little Mermaid ends up as self-sacrificial sea foam in one version; in another she gets a musical extravaganza of a singing-fish wedding). There’s always an unused angle from which to approach them — they’re never spent.
5. Who would you dress up?
Literally anyone who’d let me at them.
6. Are you the wolf or the hood?