Funnily enough, The Boy & the Crone actually started off as a completely different poem about a boy in a dystopian sci-fi world escaping war.
But as it evolved and moved along, I began to make lots fairy tale-ish references and allusions … and eventually it occurred to me that I might just want to set the poem in a fairy world, and make it about a well-known fairy tale character.
Let’s be clear – I’m not a poetry writer. I’ve studied a bit of poetry, but this was kind of a shot at a new kind of writing for me. I utilised an A/B/C/B rhyming scheme, with 9 four-line stanzas.
Admittedly, I didn’t put much initial thought or planning into the structure (like a good poet should), but instead allowed the narrative and journey of the boy to guide me as I wrote.
I also didn’t intend for it to be as intertextual or ‘meta’ as it ended up . I had originally planned to just tell the poetically-licensed tale of Hansel’s escape through the forest following Gretal’s death.
But as I began to think about how to end the ‘story’ in a surprising way, I felt it would be interesting to not only show Hansel escaping from the witch, but from the confines of the fairy tale itself … which I guess had already been established with the subtle twisting of the original fairy tale (if you haven’t read it, both kids escape).
Naturally, of course, it only made sense to then blur the fairy tale boundaries further, having Hansel cross-over, albeit briefly, into another tale (no secrets as to which one) and become even further lost.
I also went for the dark, unresolved ending to contrast the usual fairy tale resolutions (and I did think hard and long about how to end it the whole thing).
I wanted Hansel to be lost completely, and lost to us. In the original text, the kids spot their house in the distance and race up to it to be embraced by their father (and live happily ever after).
But in my version, there isn’t even a house or a father for Hansel “to seek.” He’s out of the fairy tale now, into the bleak, and I suppose that for him, there is no coming back.