Jane Satterfield

November 20, 2022 Satterfield Jane


“You should be very thankful that books cannot ‘talk to each other as well as to their readers.’ Conceive the state of your warehouse if such were the case….Terrible too would be the quarrelling… such a whispering may be heard—by those who have ears to hear.”

—Charlotte Brontë to George Smith, September 18, 1850



Certain mornings you can catch the sound
of voices as they rise and fall,
fleeting as the atmospheric scent
of dampened wool, the strange sillage
of matted fur—faint suggestions
of spirits unconfined by custom
and voices straying beyond their covers,
considered whispers that reveal
metaphors and mysteries,
baubles and confections, steps
to make a proper pie, sea charts
and coordinates which might set the soul
on or off a righteous path…Bunyan and Boethius
holding forth on prayer, Scott and Hoffman
on the spectral, Aesop, Coleridge and Clare
in debate about the natural
world…A book’s an invitation,
excoriation, sustenance, pilgrimage
or vice, a tangled web of inscriptions
that maps its own cartography…Oracular
or otherwise, a book instructs, offers
escape, has toxic side-effects which means
it must be kept in or out of hands…Certain
mornings you can catch
the rousing chorus as authors
folly, fancy, wit and wisdom
within the lettered leaves
Byron at odds with Bewick, speeches
that end with a flourish, celebrating
passion or ennui.


Jane Satterfield’s new book, The Badass Brontës, is a winner of the Diode Editions Book Prize and will appear in 2023. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in poetry, Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, the Ledbury Poetry Festival Prize, and more. Recent poetry and essays appear in The Common, Ecotone, Orion, Literary Matters, Missouri Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is married to poet Ned Balbo and lives in Baltimore.