Apr 15, 2016

Poetry Review: The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez

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The Jane and Bertha In Me by Rita Maria Martinez, published by Aldrich Press, Kelsay Books, January 12, 2016.
Genre: poetry

This spring marks the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. In her ambitious and timely debut,The Jane and Bertha in Me, Rita Maria Martinez celebrates Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Through wildly inventive, beautifully crafted persona poems, Martinez re-imagines Jane Eyre’s cast of characters in contemporary contexts, from Jane as an Avon saleslady to Bertha as a Stepford wife. These lively, fun, poignant poems prove that Jane Eyre’s fictional universe is just as relevant today as it was so many years ago. The Jane and Bertha in Me is a must-read for any lover of Brontë’s work. (publisher)

My comments:
There are approximately 38 poems in The Jane and Bertha in Me, divided into three sections: Femme Couvert, The Gothic Grotesque, and Promiscuous Reading. 

I found her poetry intense, very detailed and descriptive, imaginative beyond the ordinary. The poet has a keen eye for people and things and an original way with words that pulls the reader into her orb and into her experiences. 

From the first poem in the collection, "Reading Jane Eyre": 
I read in bed, on the bamboo love seat, beneath the shade
of my father’s banana trees. I scarfed the pages like pork rinds,
yuca chips, crackers slathered with guava jelly.
I binged constantly, sunk my canines into text ....
Here you get the sense of her profound interest, likening her enjoyment of the book to the pleasure of eating. 

From "Jane Addresses Edward": 
What you don’t know is that I tossedmy wedding veil from the window, witnessed its inevitable descent,speck of tulle splayed against ground like a wounded wren.
Beautiful use of imagery here, that veil floating down - clear and vivid. 

An entire poem that I loved, "Nautica": 

I was walking toward the post
when a guy whizzed by like a messenger. 
I can’t tell you what he looked like
or what he wore, only that the scent 
of his cologne lingered as if saying hello— 
and that he smelled like you, like the blue flask
of Nautica you kept in the glove
compartment, like my purple turtleneck
on nights I sank into bed carrying 
your scent the way little girls
carry dolls to their beds, the way men
carry loose change in their pockets
all day, without realizing.

The poet recaptured a strong feeling through a passing scent of cologne, a memory of someone that she conveys by skillful use of images of a blue flask, a purple turtleneck, and little girls and their cherished dolls. 

I am overwhelmed by the imaginative descriptive detail from lines in "Ode to Bertha Antoinette Mason": 

Your mandarin voice resonates
among the chinoiserie escritoire, 
the spiced meat stew, silver toothpicks,
spikes of spun sugar, bedizened scarecrows
and giggling fountains in shaggy gardens,

and the evocative imagery in "Reading Jane Eyre II":

I opened a can of alphabet soup
and searched for clues in letters,
life preservers in broth

I was very impressed by the power of Martinez's words. This is a collection of poems that I would like to have by my bedside to read slowly and absorb over time the ways in which Martinez interprets the characters in a book she clearly loves, Jane Eyre.

The Jane and Bertha in Me is a Rubik’s Cube(TM) of Janes. Each poem is a smartly annotated, hauntingly revisionist homage to Jane Eyre. Martinez’s astounding poems are literary, conversational, personal, fun, as she confidently transports her Janes from the Moors to Macy’s, from Thornfield Hall to the world of tattoos.  —Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout
 The Jane and Bertha in Me gives an unusual twist to the well-known characters from Jane Eyre, envisioning Jane at the guidance counselor, Bertha getting a makeover. These persona poems give us greater insight into the minds of madwoman and governess alike and even minor characters like Blanche and Alice, with beautiful, lush language and empathetic vision. Even casual fans of Brontë’s great book will enjoy this lively re-imagining.  —Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter
Poet Bio:
Rita Maria Martinez is a Cuban-American poet from Miami, Florida. Her writing has been published in journals including the Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, MiPOesias, and 2River View. She authored the chapbook Jane-in-the-Box, published by March Street Press in 2008. Her poetry also appears in the textbook Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama, published by Prentice Hall; and in the anthology Burnt Sugar, Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish, published by Simon & Schuster. Martinez has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International; at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida; and at the Palabra Pura reading series sponsored by the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Florida International University.

U.S. residents can purchase a signed copy of The Jane and Bertha in Me from the author’s website, http://comeonhome.org/wordpress_development/

April 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (interview)
April 10: Emma Eden Ramos (review)
April 12: Everything Distils Into Reading (review)
April 15: Book Dilettante (review)
April 16: Suko’s Notebook (review)
April 18: True Book Addict (review)
April 22: Jorie Loves a Story (review)
April 25: Diary of an Eccentric (review)
April 26: Unabridged Chick (review)
April 27: Pretty Purple Polka Dots (review)
April 28: Impressions in Ink (review)
April 30: Create With Joy (review)

Thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for the copy for review. 


Bev Bouwer said...

Great excerpts. I do not read enough poetry.

I'm featuring Between you and me this week. Happy reading.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for being on this blog tour. Her poetry seems like it has wide appeal

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Fascinating take on Jane Eyre. I would have a hard time reading a complete story in the poetic style. I hope you love it, though.

Here's mine: “HAVE NO SHAME”

Unknown said...

Some great imagery, this sounds like a book I would like. I enjoyed your review.

Suko said...

Excellent review, Harvee! I am also on this tour. Her poetry is intense--and by this I mean that it is packed with images that are created be her poems.

Elizabeth said...

I could never get into poetry, but good to hear you are enjoying it.

That is definitely VERY descriptive. :)

Thanks for sharing.

Silver's Reviews
My Book Beginnings

Anonymous said...

Hallo, Hallo! :)

As my review for this collection published this morning, I've been following the blog tour to see what other readers were saying! How lovely to find that we shared some of the same poems in common which spoke to us! Always nice to see another reader appreciate the same poem and for nearly the same reasons!

I had a very unique perspective on this collection - especially on behalf of which character truly inspired Ms Martinez moreso than the other. What I loved about the collection was it was not one that you can be carefree about reading - it's very thought producing on the level that you are drawn to look past the initial projections of the poems and think about the deeper meaning being stitched out of them.

Visit my review.

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