Monday, April 18, 2016

The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez - Review #NationalPoetryMonth

My thoughts
It's interesting to me that (sadly) I had no idea this spring is the bicentennial of Charlotte Bronte's birth, and yet we are reading a historical novel about her (The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James) for my Goodreads book group, TuesBookTalk. So, how also fitting is it for me to be reading and reviewing this wonderful book of poetry? Seems it's a month of Charlotte...and Jane!

I have to concur with another reviewer...poetry is hard to review. That being said, reading poetry always seems to evoke something in the inner spirit. It's getting those feelings on paper that proves to be difficult. The poems in these pages speak to me of a love for Jane Eyre, and also for Bertha, and a wish for their liberation and happiness. I loved the references to Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea (a book I also loved), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. These references speak to the practice in the past of diagnosing women as hysterical and confining them as treatment. An explanation of the fate of Bertha in Jane Eyre, and its "prequel" Wide Sargasso Sea.

I also liked the incorporation of modern themes. One of my favorite poems in the volume speaks of this use of modernity...


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.

I love how it demonstrates the power of scent in invoking our memories and how we carry those memories with us, at times unnoticed, until a scent comes along and reminds us, like Grandma's cookies, or the smell of a child's hair when they were babies.

Anyone who loves Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and poetry, should really read this volume. Truthfully, you should read this even if you're not a fan of the former or latter. It's that good.

About the book
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.

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

Rita Maria Martinez’s The Jane and Bertha in Me gives an unusual twist to the well-known characters fromJane 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

U.S. residents can purchase a signed copy of The Jane and Bertha in Me from the author’s website.

About the Poet
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.

Tour Stops
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)



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  1. I would be very nervous to review a book of poetry. You did way better than I could.

  2. Hallo, Hallo!

    Coming through the blog tour route - as my ruminations published earlier this morning, I wanted to take a moment to visit those of whom had posted their thoughts ahead of my own! I believe I've been on your blog in the past, and it's nice to return!

    You shouldn't worry - this is something I mentioned too, how I was completely ignorant of the #Bronte200 celebrations!! I think stories have a way of finding us at the best moment for them to enter our lives!

    I agree - reviewing poetry is a different approach than books, but as I've curated a passion for reviewing anthologies, I've come to view reviewing poems is similar to short stories; their little snippets of character and evocative voice wherein we see a story emerging even if the words are short, the depth is present! :)

    You'll find I had a strong reaction to the collection as a whole, and took out several poems that resonated with me the most. I loved writing my review, as it was so very engaging and stimulating to purport my thoughts directly against the poems and the way in which they were presented, written and captured.

    We shared one in common, too! How lovely!?

    Visit my review.

  3. I didn't know that this was a book of poetry. Love me some Jane Eyre so I do believe this is something I'll need to be picking up.

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