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Celebrating American She-Poets (1): feminist poet, Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672

Cover art c publisher
Cover art c publisher

 

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.”

public domain illustratio
public domain illustration

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

Resources:
•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)

Father’s Day with Juan Felipe Herrera, performance artist and California Poet Laureate

Juan Felipe Herrara (b. 1948), American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing
Juan Felipe Herrera (b. 1948), Mexican-American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing under GNUFDL

Juan Felipe Herrera is a Mexican-American poet and performance artist, a writer and cartoonist, a teacher and an activist.

“Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”  Punk Half Panther by Stephen Burt in the New York Times

Herrara incorporates into his writing his experience of family and the life of the compesinos, migrant farm-workers.

“Into the tilted factories, the smeared taxis,
the stunted universities, into the parlor of bank notes,
in the cramped cookhouse where the dark-skinned
humans still stoop and pitch the daily lettuce bags …”

He sometimes tells stories that arise from what is for him a pivotal moment: the early school experience of trying to fit in though he had no English-language skills. He also writes stories that illustrate the problems of immigration, which often separates families.

In 2012, California Governor, Jerry Brown, named Herrera California Poet Laureate, the first Chicano poet to be so honored.

Many of us – like Juan Felipe Herrara – had fathers or grandfathers who came to the United States to make a better life for themselves and eventually for their children and future generations. Sometimes we like to remember and acknowledge them for their vision, courage and hard work. Today seems like a good day to do so. The video below is charming children’s story, A Tale for Father’s Day, about Herrera’s immigrant father. Enjoy!

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads and to all the moms who, for one reason or other, are both dad and mom.