Pins & Needles No. 42: Claire Cronin

bad wolf
© A.T. Velazco

No. 42: Claire Cronin

Q. Fairy Tale Review is interested in non-Western fairy tales, although many of our entries have their basis in European or Western traditions. It seems to me that “What Haunts” has a connection to the Indian subcontinent and the ghosts of those cultures, like a bhut or a churel. If I’m right, what drew you towards these kinds of tales?

That’s an interesting observation! I wasn’t consciously referencing any specific cultural tradition in “What Haunts,” but now that I think about it, I remember that I wrote the earliest drafts of that poem from notes I took in Bliss Cua Lim’s “Monstrosity in Asian Cinemas” course at University of California, Irvine. We watched horror films from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, India, and Thailand and discussed some of the corresponding folklore. I think the image of the “weeping ghost with backwards-facing feet” comes directly from my notes that quarter, while the other images were retranslated through my own personal history.

Now that I’m looking through the syllabus (saved on my hard drive because I loved that class), I see that I did indeed watch an Indian film called Bhoot (Ram Bopal Varma, 2003)… so perhaps you are exactly right.

Q. Many characters in classic fairy tales are “disfigured” (in horribly graphic ways) before the story begins or during the action of the piece. However, they often are not connected to being “disordered.” How do you feel “disordered” characters and fairy tales mix?

I think the physical disfigurement of characters often signals or stands in for how they have been psychically disordered, usually through trauma. The words “disfigured” and “disordered” mean nearly the same thing in the world of my poem, though of course “disordered” connotes modern psychology and the pathologizing of certain emotional states.

Q. If a ghost were to lure you with someone else’s voice, whose would most likely draw you in?

It would be pretty easy to lure me in. I’d respond to the voice of anyone I’ve loved.

Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Editorial Assistant Lucille Randazzo.


Claire Cronin’s poem, “What Haunts,” can be found in The Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review, and was the winner of our 2014 contest.

What Haunts

Once a woman was disfigured by a story
told only through a series of red masks

A cruel ghost who lures
with someone else’s voice

Once a woman was disordered by
my love and I go walking

A weeping ghost
with backwards-facing feet