Imago, Dei


by Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose

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Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose

« Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner »

How does a daughter emerge whole from an upbringing saturated with religious fundamentalism? And if not whole, how does she piece together some kind of coherent self out of fragmented half-truths? The eighteen narrative poems in Imago, Dei bear witness to the emotional and psychological weight amassed from a girlhood fraught with vexed messages about what it means to be “good.” Narrated in third-person, lyric vignettes, these are poems about a daughter’s desire to be the son her well-meaning, but deeply damaged father thinks he needs; about an adolescent world filled with cute boys, predatory church leaders, Lakes of Fire, and broken girls who beg to be reborn; about the bad-girl specters of Eve, Jezebel, and Delilah that haunt her into adulthood and wreak havoc on her intimate relationships; about dirty dancing, Bible study, Lacanian theory, and crying after sex; and about what happens when a recovering evangelical becomes a mother to her own daughters.


From the Author

I grew up in the Church, and by that I mean in a fundamentalist, evangelical home where we spent Sunday dinners debating things like the meaning of the Greek word “Baptismo,” whether it meant you had to be fully immersed or whether a sprinkling was sufficient to keep you from the gates of hell. Because Jesus was “the word,” and because I spent so much of my youth analyzing the “good word,” it’s fitting that I wound up pursuing a degree in English and becoming a writer. Ironically, the close-reading skills the church taught me was what ultimately undid my faith. Thank God.​


Sample Poems

• “Her Father Calls to Explain …” in Rattle (online)



“With a comma that interrupts a Latin phrase etched in Christian history, Elizabeth Johnston Abrose’s Imago, Dei offers disjunction to give worn tropes new context. This deliberate juxtaposition rejuvenates the flat and stale of tradition.”
—Nicholas Michael Ravnikar on Newpages

“A raw and difficult read (possible trigger warnings), but important for the author’s insights into generational trauma and her willingness to expose the dark side of religious fanaticism. This is the most impactful book of poetry I’ve read in a very long time.”
—Melinda B Hipple on Goodreads


About the Author

Photo of Amanda NewellElizabeth Johnston Ambrose’s poetry and prose appear in The Atlantic, The Sun, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Weekly Humorist, Mom Egg Review, and other journals and collections. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she is also the author of the chapbook Wild Things (Main Street Rag, 2021) and a finalist for Rattle’s 2021 Poetry Prize. A professor of English, her writing and scholarship focus on myths of gender and sex in literature and popular culture. She also facilitates writing-as-therapy workshops for breast cancer survivors in Rochester, New York, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and five rescue animals. (web)



Cover art by Kathryn Clarke Johnston
ISBN: 978-1-931307-50-5
Cover price: $6.00
Chapbook: 44 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″