Prelude delineates the gay female experience through a poetic reconstruction of the girlhood of Catherine of Siena, a Catholic saint who lived in 1300s Italy and disobeyed her parents by refusing marriage to devote her life to God. Through a historical lens, Brynne Rebele-Henry examines the erasure of gay women’s lives and offers a perspective of medieval queer girlhood while considering themes such as violence, desire, and the lesbian body.
The poems in Prelude by Brynne Rebele-Henry strike like lightening on the night sky, with imagery so spare and halting that my own imaginings stunned me to inner silence.
Brynne Rebele-Henry’s Prelude travels through time and space to commune with one of history’s great literary saints, Catherine of Siena. As the two writers’ language braids together, so too does their loneliness, their prayer, their desperate and palpable yearning. ‘In the darkness, I whispered hymns like they could keep me,’ begins one poem, and it’s as if both women are speaking at once. Prelude is richly researched and exquisitely rendered, an unforgettable collection.
Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry collection, Autobiography of a Wound, won the AWP Donald Hall Poetry Prize, was one of Library Journal’s Top Fall Poetry Picks for 2018, and was a finalist for the 2019 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award. Her first novel, Orpheus Girl, received the 2021 Young Adult Virginia Author Award from the Richmond Public Library and was listed as one of the most anticipated YA novels by Barnes & Noble and Chicago Review of Books. She is also the author of a bilingual (English and Slovenian) chapbook, Vizije Se Začnejo Pri Šestih (Visions Begin at Six), and is a 2021–2022 Fulbright Scholar at the Institute of Anthropological and Spatial Studies, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.