Woods Wolf Girl – Walde

Walde Reviews Woods Wolf Girl

Hoogland, Cornelia. (2011) Woods Wolf Girl. Wolsak and Wynn: Hamilton, ON. (97 pages).

When I look back through all the stories of my childhood, she has always been there. She being her, that girl, dressed in red, in the woods, on her way to her grandmother’s house. Meeting that wolf. Has there ever been a time when she hasn’t been there? She’s in all of us, in all of our pasts, in all our childhoods. Little Red Riding Hood. Or, if you prefer, Little Red Cap. In all of her disguises. Bruno Beittelheim states that even though Charles Perrault published Little Red Riding Hood in 1697, the story already had its roots in ancient history. There is, as he says, the myth of Cronos swallowing his children, who nevertheless return miraculously from his belly; a heavy stone was used to replace the child to be swallowed. There is also a Latin story of 1023 by Egbert of Lièges, called Fecunda ratis in which a little girl is found in the company of wolves; the girl wears a red cover of great importance to her, which scholars have interpreted as being a red cap. As a footnote to this, it should be mentioned that Dr. Hoogland received her PhD for her research on Little Red, and continues to teach it to her students to this very day.

When I first received the advanced reading copy for Woods Wolf Girl, I felt quite lupine myself, as I literally devoured the book in the space of one reading. What is it about this girl that fascinates us so? Cornelia takes all our longings, our fears, our questions, our fantasies about who and what Little Red Riding Hood is and repositions the voices, the points of view, the time and the place to produce a version of the tale that is, as poetry, deeply resonant and profound. Moments after I put the book down, her voice and her words echoed in my body, as if I’d swallowed everything. Yes, a girl walks into the woods… but it is Cornelia’s acute perception and use of language that is for me one of the many exciting things about this book. Her words are athletic, rigorous, sensual and sensuous. The pages literally dance with text, as words leap across parts of the page filling it, skirting and biting with a variation of voices and dynamic diction that has some serious-what-big-teeth-you have kismet. Cornelia can coin Nikita Kruschev is one sentence and then skip to a diet of tulip bulbs before being followed by black shit and Nazis. Make no mistake, this is brilliant, powerful writing. Confident, assured, masterful, in Woods Wolf Girl Cornelia uses language with a new kind of visual intensity and power – even the title itself creates a landscape within our minds and our psyches to reclaim – among many, many potent and magic things – story, identity and sex.  And what sex there is – but you’ll have to buy your own copy to get some of that.

Christine Walde has been published for both her poetry and fiction in a number of national and international journals and publications. She lives and writes in London, Ontario.

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