Becoming the Villainess

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Alternately funny, violent, wicked, and sad, this first collection of poems by Jeannine Hall Gailey presents mythic archetypes in a surprising new light against a backdrop of pop culture, Ovid, Grimm’s fairy tales, and the struggles of contemporary women. View these poems from the book that appeared on Verse Daily: “When Red Becomes the Wolf”, “Femme Fatale” and “Wonder Woman Dreams of the Amazon”.

Pricing and Availability

Published by Steel Toe Books and retailing for $12.00, Becoming the Villainess is available from one of these fine retailers:

Praise For Becoming the Villainess

Gailey writes with a voice full of wit and charm that keeps the reader somewhat off balance. She serves a dish of fairy tales and myths, part vixen and part Carol Burnett. Hers is an edginess that makes new those tales with which we are familiar. An excellent read that will leave you wanting more.”

—Colleen J. McElroy, award-winning poet and editor of The Seattle Review

These full-bodied persona poems give dimension to the powerful (and powerless) female heroes of myth and comic books with strong voices that struggle against stereotype and silence. Make room for this new take on the oldest story in the book.”

—Dorianne Laux, award-winning poet and co-author of The Poet’s Companion

In this splendidly entertaining debut, Jeannine Hall Gailey offers us a world both familiar and magical—filled with fairytale and mythology characters that are our own bedfellows—we wake up with Philomel and argue with Ophelia while half-listening to a Snow Queen, amidst Spy Girls, Amazons and Mongolian Cows. The wild and seductive energy in this collection never lets one put the book down. (In fact, any one who opens the collection in the bookstore and reads such poems as “The Conversation” and “Job Requirements: A Supervillain’s Advice” will want to buy the book!) For her delivery is heart-breaking and refreshing, so the poems seduce us with the sadness, glory and entertainment of our very own days. Propelled by Jeannine Hall Gailey’s alert, sensuous, and musical gifts, the mythology becomes all our own.”

—Ilya Kaminsky, author of the award-winning Dancing in Odessa

Reviews and Features

In a time when poetry has become polarized-narrative or lyrical, accessible or academic, serious or comedic–it is refreshing to read poetry that flirts with the spaces in between. Jeannine Hall Gailey’s work does just this; she has released a body of poetry that is at once mature and thrilling, humorous and intense, appealing to audiences of poets and non-poets alike.” Rattle

It is a rare thing to find a poem that makes me laugh while evoking serious emotion, but not rare in Becoming the Villainess, with many poems characterized by a sorrowing playfulness reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” In her debut poetry collection, Gailey recreates myths from Persephone to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, examining the victim/villain casting of mythic women with wit, grace and insight…With her blend of colloquial and lyric language, of pop culture and ancient tradition, Gailey not only renews myth for the modern reader, but illuminates our strengths and vulnerabilities through the lens of myth.” Fickle Muses

She skillfully disarms us with her dark humor…and then goes to hit us with hard and heartbreaking truths…”

Becoming the Villainess is the debut collection of free-verse poetry by journalist Jeannine Hall Gailey. Addressing the archetypes of myth, from modern pop culture to Ovid to Grimm’s fairy tales, Gailey weaves words expressing the hearts of shunned, reviled, justly and unjustly treated villainesses and female victims of fable. A dramatic, moving collection; each poem has a gripping personal story to tell.”
Midwest Book Review

Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Becoming the Villainess remembers a truth that some books tend to forget: poetry can be fun without sacrificing serious intent or importance….Becoming the Villainess is an accomplished first book that should appeal to a wide audience. Like much good poetry, it is, in the end, about unity, reminding us all—male and female, villain or villainess—how our own lives are inhabited and enriched by the myths and stories that have made us who we are.”
The Pedestal Magazine

  • Click here to read an interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey by poet Kate Greenstreet about how her first book changed her life.
  • Garrison Keillor has read two poems from Becoming the Villainess on his NPR show, The Writer’s Almanac:
  • Two poems from the book were featured on Verse Daily!
  • Two poems from the book, “Persephone and the Prince Meet Over Drinks” and “Becoming the Villainess,” were included in the The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology for 2007.
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