Pins & Needles No. 28: Emma Bolden

Fairy-Tale Books

bad wolf
© A.T. Velazco

No. 28: Emma Bolden

Q. There’s something quite elegant about the way your poem alternates between tercets and couplets. How did you arrive at this decision?

I probably shouldn’t admit that this was a total accident, but it was totally an accident. In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway talks about plot in terms of connection and disconnection. I think this is perhaps most true in fairy tales, and I wanted the form of the poem to reflect that. Originally, I’d planned for tercets; though couplets have long been my go-to stanzaic form, I’ve grown more and more fond of tercets. There’s something wonderfully contradictory about them: on one hand, like the tripod, the tercet is an extraordinary strong structure. On the other hand, there’s something that always feels a bit off about them, as if something is missing, or else extraneous. I couldn’t get the line breaks to work in tercets, so I decided to try alternating tercets and couplets. In the end, I think (I hope!) it’s a stronger form for the poem as a whole, as it amplifies those contradictory characteristics of the tercet. I think (I hope!) that the juxtaposition of the tercet with the complete and carefully-wrapped package of the couplet forces the reader to see that there’s something a bit off, as if the stanzas fall apart when they’re closest to completion.

Q. “When he has a vision of home, he has/ a vision of walls. When she has a vision of home,/ she builds another wall. She sews another dress/ over her dress, then another.” What’s your vision of home?

This is, perhaps, the primary question in my work—and in my life—right now, and it has been for quite a long time. For most of my life, almost without realizing it, I’ve carried within myself a very cliché vision of home: as a structure in which a family lives and loves and learns. When I thought of having a home, I thought of having children. This meant that thinking of home was always a strange and painful thing, as I wasn’t sure that I would be able to have children. Two years ago, I learned that I would never be able to have children, which left me with the realization that my vision of home was both limited and limiting. The best answer I can give to this question is that, for me, home is a question—one I am working to answer just by living each day.

Q. You’re throwing a fairy-tale dinner party (it could happen). Who do you most want seated at your table?

I think that I would have a lot in common with the Little Mermaid (the non-Disney version). One has to admire a woman who would risk becoming sea foam to gain a human soul—and one who would take the option of becoming sea foam over taking a life. I would also be willing to bet that she would sneak off with me to slay some Beyoncé songs at karaoke if the princesses at the party droned on and on about decorating their castles for balls.

Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Poetry Editor Jon Riccio.


Emma Bolden’s “In Every Tale About Hunger” appears in The Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review.

“In Every Tale About Hunger”

In winter the husband walks ever northward.
The wife stays dark and light in their house,
canning the last of last summer’s fruits: sad

apples that only half-made themselves,
blackberries that pricked her with their ticking

vines. He slices the soles off his shoes
to give his feet the gift of ice, a slow burn to numb.
Above him, geese gather like a bad hem. They urge

him: northward, north. He sits for a spell cast
by a lake that magicked itself into ice

while fish move their mouths and their bodies
below. When he has a vision of home, he has
a vision of walls. When she has a vision of home,

she builds another wall. She sews another dress
over her dress, then another. Another, until she knows

every wall is an answer. The horizon answers
every question he asks with blue, and then
more blue. He wants to walk to an end.

She holds the needle in her mouth. She sews a dress
into her skin, a veil over her face. His legs give up

walking. He falls into snow, that white witch
who is always wet, always a woman who wants.
When his wife has worked enough, she sews herself

into standing even while she sleeps. It’s the way
she has of making. It’s the way she makes to wait.