On a recent visit to The Morgan Library in New York City, I spotted a tiny autograph manuscript of the poem, “The Night of Storms has Passed,” by Emily Brontë, dated June 10, 1837. It was written in tiny, barely legible script on a card perhaps 3 by 4 inches. Written when she was about to turn nineteen years old (she was born July 30, 1818), it was unpublished in her lifetime, but has since been included in collected poems by Emily, perhaps the most inscrutable of the Brontë sisters. The text accompanying the poem read as follows:
A Graveyard Wail by the Teenage Emily Brontë
“A month before she turned nineteen, Emily Brontë wrote this poem about a ghost that opens its lips to emit a lament that mixes eerily with the sound of the wind. She copied an earlier draft, fitting fifty-eight lines onto a scrap a little smaller than an index card. In 1846, when she and her sisters self-published a book of poetry (choosing male pseudonyms to mask their identity), Brontë chose not to include this composition, it remained unpublished in her lifetime.” Read More→
The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was a fertile decade for African-American creatives of all kinds — writers, musicians, playwrights, and artists. Though like many movements it was male-dominated, many women rose to prominence. We explore some of those who made a lasting impact in Renaissance Women: 12 Female Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, some of whom will also appear in the following list. Here we present women poets of the Harlem Renaissance that have been somewhat or largely forgotten —but whose words and lives should continue to be celebrated.
In her preface to Black Sister: Poetry by Black American Women, 1746 – 1980, Erlene Stetson wrote:
“Black women poets have made a unique contribution to the American literary tradition. This contribution is shaped by their experience both as blacks and as women, an experience whose pressure they have resisted and at the same time as they have recognized its strategic survival value in life and exploited its symbolic power in their art.” Read More→
Anne Sexton (1928 – 1974) proclaimed that she was “the only confessional poet” some time before committing suicide at the age of forty-five. Her good friend Sylvia Plath, whose poetry stands squarely in the realm of the confessional movement, might have taken issue with that. But it’s undoubtedly true that from the time she started writing poetry as a way to recover from a mental breakdown, her writing and her inner life were joined.
From that synergy emerged a period of wild creativity that resulted in more than a dozen collections and a Pulitzer Prize. Here’s a sampling of 10 poems by Anne Sexton, a woman who was as complex and talented an artist and woman as they come. Read More→
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→