She Returns to the Floating World

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

She Returns to the Floating World is a book about transformation that examines two recurring motifs in Japanese folk tales and popular culture: “the woman who disappears” and the “older sister/savior.” Many of the poems are persona poems spoken by characters from animé and manga, mythology, and fairy tales, like the story of the kitsune, or fox-woman, whose relationships are followed throughout the book. Gailey’s abiding interest in female heroes and tales of transformation, love, and loss bristles to life with a cast of characters including wives who become foxes, sisters who become birds, and robots with souls.

She Returns to the Floating World was an Eric Hoffer Award 2012—Montaigne Medal finalist, a semifinalist in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards in the Poetry category, and won a Silver medal in the Florida Publisher’s Association 2011 President’s Book Award for Poetry.

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Pricing and Availability

Originally published in softcover and e-book by (now shuttered) Kitsune Books, She Returns to the Floating World has been re-issued both in e-book form and in a new softcover print edition by Two Sylvias Press.
Order a Kindle version of the e-book now at

The second print edition, which is also available at, features all new artwork by Michaela Eaves.

A limited number of the first edition are still available from the following sources:

Click here for She Returns to the Floating World merchandise.

Praise for She Returns to the Floating World

I deeply admire the skill with which Jeannine Hall Gailey weaves myth and folklore into poems illuminating the realities of modern life. Gailey is, quite simply, one of my favorite American poets; and She Returns to the Floating World is her best collection yet.”

—Terri Windling, writer, editor, and artist (editor, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series; collections including The Armless Maiden, as well as The Endicott Studio)

Kin to the extraordinary pillow book of tenth-century Japanese court poet Sei Shōnagon, Jeannine Hall Gailey has created her own collection of extraordinary myths, fables, and folktales for the twenty-first century. Fed by scholarship, a passion for anime, and a singular, brilliant imagination, this poet designs female heroes who challenge and transform our quotidian lives.”

—Sandra Alcosser, author of Except by Nature

The poems in Gailey’s highly anticipated second collection mesmerize the reader with their glimmering revisitations of myth that explore love and desire via the most unexpected conduits: foxes, robots, and the “kingdom of anime.” She Returns to the Floating World is a captivating gathering of poems written with the rare but immense knowledge of (the) matters of the heart and the often-ecstatic natural world. Gailey illuminates our place within myth with stunning precision and the awareness of what it really means to be fully alive with the ones you love.”

—Aimee Nezhukumatathil author of At the Drive-in Volcano and Lucky Fish

These poems fuse figures and narratives from Japanese myths and
folklore, Shinto spirits, philosophy and popular culture to explore
the nexus between the spiritual and the sensual, places where the
act of touching is both metaphorical and sometimes violently,
painfully physical. Amid musings on the darker corners of Japan’s
postwar legacy are flashes of the humor born of perseverance. Even
Godzilla has a cameo.”

—Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica

Reviews and Features

Jeannine Hall Gailey’s second book is a collection that is inspired by and recreates Japanese folk-tales, anime, and Shinto spirits. One of the themes of Gailey’s book is the fear and sense of danger caused by nuclear power, and the implicit message that humanity has made horrible mistakes that have resulted in great destruction…Written before the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, She Returns to the Floating World will resonate with readers re-evaluating nuclear power in terms of both energy and weaponry. The need for this book is clearer than ever, given not only its relevance as a record of the past, but as a sign-post of the present, pointing towards an uncertain future. But down the road, whatever reality the reader finds herself in, Gailey’s book will illuminate the way to transcendence and peace.”

—Read the complete review by Gina Barnard in The California Journal of Poetics.

In She Returns to the Floating World, Gailey utilizes anime and other aspects of Japanese culture, such as its folklore and attitudes following The Bomb, as she puzzles through how to define “she.” Gailey’s poems look at the female from all sides: sister, wife, mother, body. Yes, the female body itself and what it means to have that form is examined in full detail.”

—Read the complete review by Jessie Carty at The Rumpus.

We see Gailey recombine the DNA of all sorts of fairy tales and myths that revolve around transformation, transformations that don’t often go well.  We see poem after poem of mostly female characters trying to make themselves into the creatures that they think they want to be.  Most of us know it won’t go well, but the poems that explore these themes are mostly gentle and sympathetic.  Sometimes they’re even humorous.  In ‘The Fox-Wife’s Husband Considers the Warning Signs,’ we get a list poem that tells all the reasons the relationship was doomed:  ‘When you had our baby, I caught you licking his head absently on / more than one occasion’ and ‘Sometimes when you thought you were alone, you gnawed on / your forearm.'”

—Read the complete review at Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s blog.

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