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The Badass Brontës Reviewed in Literary Matters

"The Badass Brontës is a treasure trove for poets and teachers with an interest in form and a delight in the skillful use of various poetic devices." Thank you, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, Literary Matters, & Melanie McCabe, for your consideration!

The volume includes persona poems, a villanelle, a sestina, prose poems, ekphrastic poems, as well as the ... gigan. And the wealth of lush language—making use of alliteration, internal rhyme, assonance, consonance—makes the reader want to pause and speak certain lines aloud, just for the joy of hearing language constructed so artfully. Take for example these lines from the poem 'Forfeit,' which references Emily’s lost hawk, Nero: 'The hawk’s wing-beat’s rapid, /can’t connive a cage. When clipped, is stripped of dive / and plummet, grip and tear; heart feathered, fettered. Stutter / or hop-to-hand.' Read that one out loud to yourself for the sheer pleasure of launching such rich sounds and rhymes into the air.

Read the review by Melanie McCabe in full in Literary Matters


Book Cover for The Badass Brontes

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.


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