(Review) The Jane and Bertha in Me, Poems by Rita Maria Martinez

Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 90
Source: Free ebook copy from Poetic Book Tours, and Rita Maria Martinez, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

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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 and 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.

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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.

My Thoughts: 
Three sections holding a total of 38 poems:
"Femme Covert"
"The Gothic Grotesque"
"Promiscuous Reading"

"Fashion Remedy" is the first poem in the collection that drew me in with its provocative language. "Jane's grown weary of lingeried mannequins, of women spritzing her like exterminators."
In this poem, Jane's anger is just below the surface, ready to leap-up. Eddie is controlling and a manipulator. He's kept secrets from her, "mothballs beneath the bed." Jane questions if she can trust him again. She is drawn to him even though her intuition prompts otherwise. 
A second poem I love is "Cause and Effect".  This is a poem that must be read aloud. I love the pronunciation of the words on my tongue and lips. "She puckers, she contours, she slathers her kisser with Pink Panther lipstick before slipping under plaid quilts because there's a macaroni-shaped scar on her lip." Bertha is eccentric, different, off. However, she's a thinking woman, even if her thoughts are out-there, these thoughts and ideas need someone to disentangle and translate. 
"Letter to Edward" reeks anger, yet there is self-control. Sarcasm is spewing. 
Lastly, my favorite poem is "Reading Jane Eyre II." "I opened a can of alphabet soup and searched for clues in letters, life preservers in broth." I could read this poem 100 times and find something different that reaches out to pluck my emotions. 

A few of the poems did not appeal to me, because there is a strong tone of raw biting aggression. On the other hand, poems are not always "moonlight and roses." I appreciate the collection of poems and over-all loved reading them, but a few of them did not appeal to me. 

The Jane and Bertha in Me is a Rubik’s Cube(TM) of Jane's. 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 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

Further links for reading:


  1. Thank you, Annette, for being on the blog tour for this modern and classic collection of poems about Jane Eyre. It's a perfect for for the 200th birthday of Charlotte Bronte.

  2. Thank you for reviewing The Jane and Bertha in Me!


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