Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: "Woods Wolf Girl" by Cornelia Hoogland

Cornelia Hoogland's Woods Wolf Girl (Wolsak and Wynn, 2011) explores the fairytale of Red Riding Hood, with the poems in the book divided between three speakers; Red, Mother, and Woodsman. At first the book sticks closely to the original tale, focusing on the grandmother, the trip through the forest, and the threat of the wolf, but gradually slips into a more individual story of one woman's experience, while still maintaining the themes and voices established earlier in the book. Woods Wolf Girl is written in concrete, imagistic language that makes it a compelling and provocative read. Through the fairytale, Hoogland keeps a sense of violence, sexual guilt, and desire percolating just below the surface, pulling you along as the book and the three speakers develop. Despite focusing on issues surrounding sexual development and desire as it relates to heterosexual relationships, the text remains focused on the female speakers and their emotions, perspectives, and relationships to one another. This strongly matrilineal approach to the fairy tale is refreshing, especially when combined with the sense of dread that Hoogland builds throughout the text. Though there are two or three clunky moments where the link between the threat of the wolf and sex is directly expressed, with the effect of bursting the ominous mood of the poems, Woods Wolf Girl is almost always subtle and powerful in its manipulation of the fairytale. I found Hoogland's text tremendously entertaining and effective.

From Woods Wolf Girl


On the escarpment, a wolf
snares an elk calf, grips it in her jaws.

Shakes it senseless.
Throws it down; snaps its neck.

Carries the still-warm body home to her pups.

She carries blood, she carries milk.

As an aside, Woods Wolf Girl reminded me very strongly of the tire iron scene from My Winnipeg in its tone, subject matter, and approach 

My Winnipeg - "Tire Iron" by ifcfilms