Poetry, 6″ x 8″, 80 pp, trade paperback
Forthcoming, May 2013
During the European witch trials, over one hundred thousand people were prosecuted for maleficia. The vast majority were women. Many were unmarried. Many owned property. Some were midwives who counseled village women about their health, their pregnancies, and their marriages. Others were simply non-conformists. Maleficae tells the story of one so-called witch: a woman who, like many others, was once seen as her village’s savior, but became the focus of the villagers’ fear and rage when disaster struck.
This book-length series of poems seeks to re-create the terror and inhumanity of the trials. Incorporating language from trial records to papal bulls to incendiary theological documents, these poems explore the intersection of forces that led to the persecution of people who were deemed different and therefore dangerous—forces alarmingly similar to those still operating today. At the center of all of this is the woman who was called a witch: her story, her wail from the center of the flames. In allowing her new testimony, in allowing the dead to speak, Maleficae gives voice to the voiceless victims of the trials.
In this incantatory series of lyric poems Emma Bolden finds a new way to write about an old (though still current) subject. This book speaks in many tongues, many vivid, and living tongues.
Emma Bolden’s Maleficae is an ambitious and powerful accomplishment. Informed by historical records of European witchcraft trials, it is wholly contemporary in its layered complexity and poetic craft. Incantatory rhythms, shifting perspectives and voices, and vividly rendered dream/nightmare imagery make these poems hypnotic and haunting. The contrast between historical content and contemporary form—between fact and imagination—intensifies the dramatic impact and reminds us that the past is, in one form or another, always present.