Celebrating American She-Poets (1): feminist poet, Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672
Inspired by my long-distance poetry friends at London-based Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN), which is dedicated to encouraging and promoting women poets and women’s poetry, I’ve decided to feature one American woman poet each week on Thursday. I hope you’ll join me for these short tidbits by way of celebration.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Second Light Network of Women Poets publishes well-regarded anthologies and the biannual magazine ARTEMISpoetry, which feature the works of both contemporary well-known A-list women poets as well as talented emerging voices. Membership and publication is not limited to the UK but there are demographic restrictions: age and gender. Associate memberships are available for women under 40. Recommended.
I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four Cocks there were, and Hens the rest.
Note: I recognize that more correctly Anne Bradstreet would be considered an English poet. I have decided for my purposes here, I’d include her as “American.”
The illustration above is Anne Bradstreet on the cover of The Works of Anne Bradstreet published by The John Harvard Library . The book’s introduction is by contemporary American Poet, Adrienne Rich. Some say she (Bradstreet) was the first serious woman poet in colonial America. It could be though that she was the first to be taken seriously and published while other talents plied their art in the women’s-work ghetto of obscurity
From the publisher:
“Anne Bradstreet was one of our earliest feminists and the first true poet in the American colonies. This collection of her extant poetry and prose, scrupulously edited by Jeannine Hensley, has long been the standard edition of Bradstreet’s work. Hensley’s introduction sketches the poet’s life, and Adrienne Rich’s foreword offers a sensitive critique of Bradstreet as a person and as a writer. The John Harvard Library edition includes a chronology of Bradstreet’s life and an updated bibliography.”
This is telling of the times:
Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are
Men have precedency and still excell,
It is but vain unjustly to wage warre;
Men can do best, and women know it well
Preheminence in all and each is yours;
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.
And yet, Anne Bradstreet did have confidence in her gender as we can see in this portrait of Queen Elizabeth:
Who was so good, so just, so learned so wise,
From all the Kings on earth she won the prize.
Nor say I more then duly is her due,
Millions will testifie that this is true.
She has wip’d off th’ aspersion of her Sex,
That women wisdome lack to play the Rex
•The Works of Anne Bradstreet
•Anne Bradstreet, The Poetry Foundation
•Anne Bradstreet poems, Poem Hunter
•Wendy Martin, “Anne Bradstreet’s Poetry: a Study in Subversive Poetry,” in Shakespeare’s Sisters, edited by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979)