Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was one of the most prominent early American poets, and the first writer in the American colonies to be published. At a time when it was considered unacceptable for women to write, Anne rejected the prevailing ideas of women’s inferiority. She endured criticism, not for the quality of her work, but that she, a woman, dared to write. Following are five poems by Anne Bradstreet, most written in the 1650s and 1660s.
The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650) was her first volume of poetry, first published in London and favorably received. Published under the pseudonym “A Gentlewoman from Those Parts,” this collection, like Anne Bradstreet’s subsequent work, reflected the duties of a Puritan woman to God, home, and family. She did so skillfully, and occasionally allowed notes of cynicism to creep in — perhaps the only form of rebellion possible for a woman of her time. For example: “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / That says my hand a needle better fits.” Read More→
“Renascence” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) is the 1912 poem that put this iconic American poet on the literary map. Though it was published when she was just nineteen, it held up as one of the best poems in her canon. You can find an excellent analysis of it on Poetry Foundation.
The 214-line lyric poem consists of rhymed couplets. The overarching theme is the connection of the individual to nature. The narrator of the poem is writing from a mountaintop from which she observes the broad vista. Observation turn into a mystical experience. The poem was written on the summit of Mt. Battle in Camden, Maine, which now has a plaque in the spot that inspired it. Read More→
Helene Johnson (July 7, 1906 – July 7, 1995), an American poet associated with the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Boston and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Her poems explore themes of gender and racial politics of the era in which she wrote, primarily in the late 1920s. Following are 11 of Helene Johnson’s poems, worth reflecting on and reconsidering.
“Bottled” and “Ah My Race” are arguably her most famous poems. “Bottled” needs an introduction and context, without which it can be misconstrued. It was first published in 1927 in the May issue of Vanity Fair. Katherine R. Lynes in Project Muse offers much insight into the story behind the poem:
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) is the best known poem by this Victorian-era British poet. It was published in her first volume of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems, in 1863. This very long narrative poem is set in an imaginary world, describing the strange adventures of sisters Laura and Lizzie and their encounters with evil goblin merchants.
One of the main themes of this poem is temptation, illustrated by Laura’s tasting of enchanted forbidden fruit. It also explores sacrifice, sexuality, and salvation. According to Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians: Read More→
Though she was considered an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966) wasn’t never a New York City resident, neither when the movement was in full swing in the 1920s or after. Instead, she and her family lived in Washington, D.C. Their house on S Street NW came to be known as the “S Street Salon” — a satellite of sorts for writers of the Harlem Renaissance visiting in the nation’s segregated capital.
Among the colleagues who were regular visitors were the leading lights of the Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke, and many of the noted women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Read More→