Prelude: Poems

Univ. of Pittsburgh. (Pitt Poetry). Mar. 2022. 72p. ISBN 9780822966883. pap. $18. POETRY
In her third poetry collection (after Autobiography of a Wound), Rebele-Henry explores the gay female experience by reimagining the girlhood and adolescence of Saint Catherine of Siena. The result captures the erasure of gay women’s lives in hauntingly powerful ways, with poems about sexual experiences often interwoven with a sense of guilt and inadequacy and the constant need to hide. As Rebele-Henry says in “Orchadiae,” “All we would ever be was in the darkness” and “My desire was a thing I swallowed until my teeth corroded.” As these themes are repeated again and again, they give new perspective to the constant pain and alienation experienced by many LGBTQ+ people. There are also meditations on St. Catherine’s grief after the death of her twin, as well as St. Catherine’s startling passage into sainthood. The 14th-century Italian setting is subtle yet immersive, with imagery of flowers, earth, mud, and the darkness of the night sky throughout.
VERDICT Built on a fascinating history while creating a fresh and heartbreaking perspective, Rebele-Henry’s poetry brings to life an LGBTQ+ experience. Highly recommended.
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