On a writing workshop last weekend, I introduced Vasco Popa’s The Golden Apple: a round of stories, songs, spells, proverbs & riddles. I have been using some of the riddles and proverbs as writing prompts.
Vasco Popa (1922-1991) was Serbia’s greatest modern poet. Ted Hughes was an admirer of his work and wrote the introduction to his Collected Poems. Popa collected folk tales from many sources. He found a rich inspiration for his own poems in this “eternally living wellspring of folk poetry” which he combined with vivid imagery and a touch of the surreal.
Here are two riddles from The Golden Apple. The answers are at the end of the blog.
With an iron key
I open a green fortress
And drive out the black cattle
A horse with its pack goes into a house and comes out of it, but its tail never goes in.
Popa’s Collected Poems inspired my poem Fairy tale. It was first published in erbacce and then in my debut collection Another life (Oversteps Books Ltd, 2016).
Someone needs to go to
a deep cupboard in a dark room
the others wait outside
The first one becomes
a grandmother with a stoop
then someone else steals
her white lace cap her smile
her soft voice
they go to lie still in a deep dark
bed in a cold room
Then someone else walks a long
way through the wood, across
the saddled serpent under a cold
sheet of dark clouds
That someone is dressed in crimson
already – it will save time
the old one will rescue the red girl
but they will not have enough
bricks to finish the job
after that someone else will get to be hungry
and someone will always be eaten
Answers to the riddles: Watermelon, Spoon.