by Magaret Rozga
This biography in verse of the life of Jesse Benton Frémont, wife of explorer John Charles Frémont, is both a compelling look at a woman who might be seen as the 19th century's equivalent to Hillary Clinton and a dialogue between this historical figure and the 21st century woman writing about her. A strong series of narrative poems, this collection explores the concepts of manifest destiny, the expansion of slavery, racism, politics, and a woman's role in both her public and private life. "History is a time line," writes Rozga. "Those who do not know history / leave it lying underfoot. // We trip on it again and again." If these aren't words for our time, I don't know any better ones.
-Barbara Crooker, author of Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015)
That all history were told in poems; that manifest destiny were not disguised imperialism, that feminists were honored more frequently in the manner of Margaret Rozga’s Pestiferous Questions. Exploring issues of gender, power, slavery, emancipation, destiny, betrayal, loss and survival, this brilliantly researched and emotional book tells the story of Jessie Ann Benton and her struggle to find voice at the hands of the patriarchy and its double Dutch dance: “how alike, how different heart and heat.”
-Leslie Anne Mcilroy, HEArt — Human Equity through Art
Jessie Benton Fremont has had at least five major biographies written about her, and much space is devoted to her in dozens, hundreds, of other books, but no one previously has captured her poetic soul. That requires a poet, and that is what Margaret Rozga provides in Pestiferous Questions. Rozga’s 73 poems are in the tradition of Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body and Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology, and like them help illuminate American history. Jessie Fremont finally gets the poetic biographer she deserves.
-Martin Naparsteck, author of Sex and Manifest Destiny
Cover by Wendy Vardaman