~ Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Spring is a sublime season. Additionally, April is National Poetry Month. For the past few years, I've celebrated this special month by posting about poetry in some fashion. This April also marks the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. Charlotte Brontë (April 1816 - March 1855) was a novelist, poet, and governess, best known for her great, Gothic novel, Jane Eyre. Originally Brontë's book was published in London, England, in 1847 as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, under the pen name of Currer Bell. Published in 2016, The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez is a collection of poetry that was inspired by the work of Charlotte Brontë, particularly by the novel Jane Eyre.
Rita Maria Martinez Charlotte Brontë
This collection focuses on two characters from Brontë's novel, the protagonist, Jane Eyre, and Bertha Mason (Rochester's wife), although other characters such as (Edward) Rochester, Blanche, and Alice, are also featured. The first poem in the book is called "Reading Jane Eyre". This novel obviously affected Rita Maria Martinez deeply. The poem is full of details about her experience with the book, the physical side--like covering it with clear contact paper--as well as what she felt at school: her teacher (Mrs. Lloyd) "hinted a secret at the heart of the text--I spotted it in her eyes whenever she laughed". These details throughout the book give the work substantial breadth and depth.
The second poem is the title poem, "The Jane and Bertha in Me", which sets the tone for this collection, by contrasting the two characters in a skillful and humorous manner, as the poet (or poetess, if you prefer) acknowledges the different facets of her personality:
"The Jane in me wants to model a black dress,bottle-thick lenses, tuck my hair in a bun.The Bertha in me wants to sport a turban,a red nightgown, and chandelier earrings."
|Reader, I was drawn in.|
From the first poem, which introduces the book Jane Eyre, to the last poem, "At the British Library", where "Charlotte's manuscript (is) sepulchered like an incorruptible saint", I was captivated. Rita Maria Martinez has transformed her love of Jane Eyre into a remarkable creative collection as thoughtful as Jane, and as "crazy" as Bertha. This book features 38 poems (I'm barely scratching the surface about this book in this post). Each poem contributes to, in the words of poet Jeannine Hall Gailey, whose work I have also reviewed, a "lively re-imagining". There's a lot "going on" in this book. It's brimming with images brought to life by words, and it's multi-layered. It's down-to-earth, and downright funny. Some of the titles of the poems are hilarious, such as "Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl", "Thinking of Bertha on the Metro", "Governess-to-Go", and "The Guidance Counselor Interrogates Jane" (and the description of the female, Larry King look-alike counselor in the poem is quite funny, too).
The Jane and Bertha in Me reignited my interest in the novel, Jane Eyre. Of course, I read it in school, and I've also seen the 1943 movie version, with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. This book of poems compelled me to locate my copy of Jane Eyre, and to read more about the novel on Wikipedia (and elsewhere online). Primarily, I was interested to refresh my memory of Jane's character in the book, and to see if (or rather, to what extent) the book is considered to be "a work of feminism". (My "conclusion"? I think it is, in several important ways.) The Jane and Bertha in Me highlights and honors the classic novel, Jane Eyre, with poems about modern life told from a woman's point of view. This collection of poetry is so clever, so confident, and so commanding!
Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour. I purchased a paper copy of the book for myself as I prefer to read poetry in this manner. For more reviews, please visit the other stops on The Jane and Bertha in Me tour. This post is also part of Serena's more general poetry tour for National Poetry Month. What will you read for National Poetry Month?
Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed, as always.