Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Red Shoes Project Redux

 This is a repost from back in January 2011 called  Red Shoes. It took some encouragement from Annell Livingston to convince me I could write a poem about shoes for inclusion in her artbook, The Red Shoes Project, but she ultimately prevailed, and without her this poem would never have been written.  The book will include original poems from many women poets active on the web, and Annell’s lively artwork on the red shoe theme, discussed further after the poem. I reposted it  here as her work on the project neared completion.  

The book is now available from as The Red Shoes Artist Book Project, by annell livingston

I’m very grateful to have been asked to contribute, and feel lucky to be included with the many talented people involved.

 Red Shoes 

A Rondel

She danced through the night. Her shoes were red.
She rang her bell of tulle and ribbons, dress of dreams.
The master cued her moves and sewed her seams
and made her body over like a doll’s without a head.

He choreographed her pas de deux, a masque of the dead.
She must be only air, her bones hollow as moonbeams.
She danced through the night. Her shoes were red,
stiff her bell of tulle and ribbons, dress of dreams,

She danced through the night. Her shoes were red,
though cream when she began the final themes.
She rang her bell of tulle and ribbons, dress of dreams.
Violins bowed the razor while she bled.
She danced through the night, her shoes were red.

January 2011

Image by Annell Livingston,  

Here is a bit more information on the project in Annell's words:

 The artists' book is a work of art that is conceived as a book and doesn't exist in any other form or format… The Red Shoe book project is the seventh project in a series of artists' book projects I have completed...

Sometimes the stories that are told by book projects are secrets and go beyond words, but books are inherently optimistic; they express the belief that communication will be received later and sometime, and somewhere they will be read.

The red shoes are a symbol of creativity for women and our legacy.  It is this legacy that The Red Shoes artists book project addresses.  

 I have asked sixteen artists to join me in The Red Shoe project.  The writings of these women are diverse in language, style, approach and form.  They each seem to be remaking, renewing, renaming, re- experiencing and recasting old ideas about the Red Shoes, and the meaning in their lives.

 I conceived the idea of a Red Shoe artist book project, while reading the Madwoman in the Attic, by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar.  They explain that the women of the nineteenth- century had what was called “anxiety of authorship,”  --a fear that she could not create, and the act of creating would isolate or destroy her.  The symbol of the red shoes is often used in fairly tales as the symbol for the creativity of women, i.e. Snow White, The Wizard of OZ, Cinderella and others."

If you'd like to read more of the poems in this project, you can visit Annell's website,  
Somethings I think About, where she has posted some of the other contributions as well as more of her own  artwork.



  1. Here is where the perfect form fits its theme like a, uh, red ballet slipper. No way could such orchestration of the inside choreography of a life find apt expression without it, and you nailed it perfectly -- metrically, lyrically, metaphorically, philosophically, languidly, taking the insides of a life's long travail and pirouetting it in a rondel's spiral swirl. To dance through the night, on so many teeth & razors, is to do so with blooded feet. Art makes them red shoes, and the dance in them an art which exceeds all wounding. Congrats. The poem's perfect for the project. - Brendan

  2. What more to be said after Brendan...this is as close to perfection as *I* will be today.

  3. Your poem is perfect. Thank you so much for your post I will post it on my blog as well. You have added that special sparkle to my Red Shoe Artists Book Project! Thank you again.

  4. I'm sighing with envy after reading that. A gorgeous, fairy tale poem, perfect for the form.
    I don't know how Annell could have asked me to contribute having read yours!

  5. Of course Brendan says it best, a perfect poem with perfect tight steps, strides where they are best choreographed, a wonderful marriage between form and content. It's going to be a very pretty book.


  6. congrats on the inclusion in the book and a fitting poem...i like the doll without a head, it opens it up for me...also the razor while she bled leaves a haunting feel to it that will be hard to shake...

  7. Wow, that is the best subject for a rondele. Every line is stunning. Congratulations!

  8. OMG! This is stunning, Hedgewitch! A brilliant rendering of how woman/creativity is hollowed-out by the master's machinations, made bloody by a choreographed death. And despite the razor's edge, she still dances in those red shoes, suggesting both redemption and dying--a tension that is fast becoming a trait I associate with your poetic.

    I'm all psyched and excited by this poem, as I'm drawing out in my mind how your own choreography of (formal) creativity suggests a post-modern reflection on women (authorship) and art.

    You are rockin' these rondels, my friend!

  9. Joy Ann, This is gorgeous! I how you handle a form, so beautifully.


  10. Many thanks all. @ Viv and Pamela--loved both your entries.
    I drew a complete blank at first when Annell asked me to contribute to this project, as I have a disconnect with shoes, pretty much, as anything but things to keep my feet from becoming skinless when I walk around. But she kept at me, and I hit upon the idea of writing a rondel to mimic the discipline and formal structure of a ballet, in the process learning a lot of interesting facts about dance, one of which is that it's an extremely difficult,complex ritual, physically demanding and full of restrictions as well as the creativity,freedom and grace with which we normally associate it.

    All in all, it's been a very educational and pleasurable experience, and as I said, I'm very grateful to have been asked to participate. Many of the other poems are extremely good, have completely different takes, and are well worth a trip to Annell's blog, where she's kindly posted them in her main stream.

  11. Dearest Hedgewitch, may I offer that you and your immense talent are shoe-ins for this or any other poetry project.

    I like how the shoes went cream, interesting!


  12. Joy,

    If I didn't comment earlier, I should have! This is another of your 'form showcases'.

    Red Shoes (as in Moira Shearer/Walbrook/Goring film) or The Black Swan (as in Natalie Portman's current film)?


  13. Your poem is wonderful. The distance between dancer and master, the razor....

  14. This is one of my favorites of yours, dear friend.

  15. Love what you have done for the project. This is a stunning standout. Congratulations. I'm glad that Annell kept after you and can now see why she did. More than pleased to be sharing these pages with you and all the others,


  16. I'm glad Annell persisted because your poem is a perfect and beautiful accompaniement to that gorgeous artwork.

    "her bones hollow as moonbeams" - that image will last with me, hedgewitch. It's simply gorgeous.

  17. "They explain that the women of the nineteenth- century had what was called “anxiety of authorship,”

    That certainly adds explanation to Emily Dickinson. She Was informed by a jealous male poet of her lack of skill in the form, never published a single piece under her own name and the sole piece she did publish was under a male pseudonym. Thank God after she passed her younger sister had no such reluctance.

  18. "her bones hollow as moonbeams..." and so much more in this -- well done, brava!

    Annell's Red Shoe project is a beautiful thing (and I'm grateful to be part of it, too).