Wednesday 2 June 2021

Rachel J Fenton, "Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York"

Rachel J Fenton is a working-class writer from Yorkshire now living in Oamaru, Aotearoa. Her poems have been published in English, The Rialto, Magma, Landfall, and Ethel Zine, and widely anthologised. Her blog is here.

About Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York

By Rachel J Fenton

Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York (Ethel Zine and Micro Press, 2021) began as a journal of the research I was undertaking in New York, in the Public Library and the Morgan Library and Museum, for a graphic biography of Brontë’s best but little-known friend Mary Taylor. 

Thematically arranged around the archive, the poems in Beerstorming explore what it means to go looking for correspondence between two people and find much more, with help from friends and a few beers.

Below, you can read two poems from the collection.

From Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York

Referencing the Collection 

Charlotte, how do you feel, here
among the brownstones instead 

of Helstones? That “lump of perfection,”
Rose York? What can be said in longhand

next to your rushed slant? Cursively,
we are not alike, as Martha to Mary

Taylor. Not sisters but friends, 
merely miles by moorland in one respect

though continents, nay worlds
apart where we will end.

Permission to Take Photographs

Hours from now I will pin-point the difference between undulate and pivotal when referring to tassels twisted from lucky threads to titillate six or five old men while a woman takes pictures with her phone for her husband who has his back to the stage. He is turning red. A jazz band plays old time hits making much of a trombone. Lederhosen-wearing wait-staff compete for our service. My friend knows the barkeep and introduces me. I say: You look like my grandfather, when he was alive, obviously. My friend decants a pitcher into the two large glasses we have drained. It’s my fault. I had instructed: tea, food, beer, in that order. We are here via a French café and Korea Town. The burlesque dancer has beautiful breasts, has never fed children; her nipples will respond to giving the way a stoic hardens to loss. Of course, I would say that after a tankard and a half in Bierhaus NYC. But this is Monday morning. I am in The Morgan and I have permission to take photographs of Mary Taylor’s letters to her best friend Charlotte Brontë. The only stipulation, I must sign, they are for my private research use, must not be shared. The Berg has its own rules.

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