“What good / are words if they don’t weave a web / that spans the centuries,” ask the Brontë sisters in the poem “Spellcasters” (44). This work of “weav[ing] a web / that spans the centuries” is the same work that Satterfield undertakes in The Badass Brontës. Far ranging and expansive, the collection not only breathes new life into the Brontë story but also helps us understand our cultural infatuation with these sister-authors and the many poignant parallels that exist between our worlds.
Thank you, Corinna McClanahan Schroede & the Ocean State Review team, for your consideration and review of The Badass Brontës by Jane Satterfield
In blazing poems of biography and reinvention, Jane Satterfield’s The Badass Brontës explores the lives and afterlives of sisters Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, “hellbent/at books & candle-lit” and the inspiration for readers and writers as far-ranging as Kate Bush and Sylvia Plath. A Yorkshire cleric’s daughters forced to break into publishing by masquerading as men, here they burn brightly as themselves in poems that range from life narratives and lyric elegies to witty inquiries into the sisters’ status as popular culture avatars. Here you’ll find a poem in the form of an Internet quiz that reveals which Brontë you most resemble, a look at the tattoos a modern-day Emily might have worn, the title poem in which the sisters stride forward as action heroes, and a poem on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s real-life attempt to summon Charlotte’s ghost in a séance.
Elsewhere, Satterfield’s vision looks to the crises of our own age. In a sequence about desire and women’s choices, Emily is reimagined as an apprentice hedgewitch encountering the medicinals of “Eve’s herbs,” a pupil tutored in the secrets that they harbor; meanwhile, Charlotte faces the primal trauma that robbed the sisters of their mother when she confronts the reality of her own fatal pregnancy. Here are treasures galore: from poems that reflect Emily’s status as a proto-environmentalist whose rescued hawk Nero is a source of joy and grief, to further channelings of the Brontë sisters’ sensitivity to fragile landscapes and the more-than-human world. For longtime Brontë fans and newcomers alike, The Badass Brontës is a poetic tour-de-force that remixes and reinvents the lives, afterlives, and creative achievements of three extraordinary women whose influence continues to be felt.