Dr. Alyse Bensel, Assistant Professor of English at Brevard College and Director of the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference, has written a new book titled Rare Wondrous Things: A Poetic Biography of Maria Sibylla Merian. While the genres of biography and poetry aren’t typically applied to the same book, the author is excited to offer something unique that doesn’t fit neatly into one category. Bensel says “I’m a poet, not a biographer or historian in any official sense, so a ‘traditional’ biography was not the best course of action for me.” She goes on to state “Poetry gave me the opportunity to include several different approaches to Merian’s life through persona poems, ekphrastic poems, more narrative-driven poems, and poems that recount my own research and writing process constructing the collection.”
The subject of the new book, Maria Sibylla Merian, is enigmatic – making her the perfect character for Bensel to explore through Poetry. Though Bensel admits “Researching Merian was slightly infuriating–her work is very scattered . . . She led this fascinating life of being a fairly successful artist during her lifetime, making groundbreaking discoveries in metamorphosis, and then divorcing her husband and running her own business (unheard of and quite scandalous in the late 1700s).” Bensel goes on to say Merian “ . . . was a remarkable illustrator and naturalist whose contributions to the sciences have long been ignored. I wanted to bring her story back to life . . .”
Rare Wondrous Things will be published July 21, 2020 by Green Writers Press. The collection will be available for purchase at local bookstores and online. Bensel is also offering pre-ordered, signed copies through her website, alysebensel.com. Bensel currently teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference.