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Poetry Corner | The Author To Her Book

November is a busy month: Thanksgiving preparation and bustling family, travel and the countdown to the holidays, shopping and the onset of stress. Add to that the absolute madness that some of us willingly, and often enthusiastically, inflict upon ourselves – National Novel Writing Month (or NaNo for short). This is when we, the afflicted, the mad, set out to finish (the first draft of) a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. No stress.

But for most (American) people, November means Thanksgiving and pilgrims and Indians, turkeys and feasting and family. This made me think about our ancestors, those irreverent Protestants who didn’t like those stuffy English rules and so lit out for their own colony, their own fresh start.

Unless you’re a literature student or in academia, it’s not likely you think that much about Colonial poetry, but  Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) is one of the most important figures in the history of American Literature.  She is considered by many to be the first American poet, and her first collection of poems doesn’t contain any of her best known poems, it was the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States.  Mrs. Bradstreet’s work also serves as a document of the struggles of a Puritan wife against the hardships of New England colonial life, and in some way is a testament to plight of the women of the age.  Anne’s life was a constant struggle, from her difficult adaptation to the rigors of the new land, to her constant battle with illness.

anne-bradstreet

Now that you’ve had a bit of a history lesson, I hope you enjoy the following poem, “The Author to Her Book,” which ties together both lovely (if different from our contemporary English) language and the often frustrating, heartbreaking but ultimately (should we be so lucky) triumphant experience that finishing a novel should be.

At least (*sigh*) I hope so.

The Author to Her Book

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Critics’ hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

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About Tomi Wiley (38 Articles)
Tomi L. Wiley is the Poetry and Short Fiction Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee.com. She has written and edited for media including Southern Living and Oxford American magazines, has been published in the literary anthologies Milk & Ink: a Mosaic of Motherhood, Telling Tales, Maypop and the Southeast Review, has coordinated panels for the Southern Festival of Books, spoken on the creative writing process at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a past president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. She lives in Knoxville, where she is writing her first novel with the help of lots of wine, goat cheese and the Barefoot Contessa.

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