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Sense of History and Humor #ROW80

February 4, 2015 , , ,


My study of poetry and the lives of poets has enlightened as well as encouraged me to continue my poetic practice.  I also loved hearing the news about the secret manuscript discovered that was written by Harper Lee, famous reclusive author.  The story of her one big hit, To Kill a Mockingbird, followed by a life out of the public eye entirely is compelling.  She never spoke to press people, but her sister did.  Now that her sister has died this old copy of a typewritten story was found in the safe deposit box attached to the original of the published novel.  It is super romantic because her fans have hoped to make her write again, but she had done it even before they knew her work.  Truly a blast from the past for all involved, the publication with cause all manner of excitement.  It has captured my imagination about finding the writing of my ancestors in the safe deposit box of history.

I found a poem about writing that has a deeply funny sense of humor.  Anne Bradstreet, my 9th great-grandmother, wrote a poem to her published book in which she describes the work as a child of hers.  Although her work is usually pretty serious, this one strikes me as not only funny, but also prescient.  The book of which she speaks made her a famous person in the history of poetry, but she is both humble and comical in her description of the work:

The Author to Her Book

Thou ill-formed 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 exposed 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,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed 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 may’st thou roam.
In critic’s 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 caused her thus to send thee out of door.

Anne Bradstreet's poems

Anne Bradstreet’s poems

I really get the way she edits and finds more fault.  She calls her book a bastard and herself poverty stricken, which I think she knows is a joke. She warns it to stay away from critics, then lets it go.    By animating the book to human stature she paints a picture of an underprivileged child, some awkward and unpolished brat.  At the publication (return) her blushing was not small.  She was proud to be published, and yet as a Pilgrim could take no personal credit for the art.  This has become my favorite work by Mistress Bradstreet because I clearly relate to her sense of comedy.  In 1678 some of her work was published posthumously.  She was, in a certain sense, a feminist.  Now we learn she was also something of a comic, concerned about the cosmic.

Birth: 1612 Death: Sep. 16, 1672 Poet.

Born Anne Dudley to nonconformist parents Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke Dudley in Northampton, England. Her father was the steward for the Earl of Lincoln and afforded his daughter an unusually complete education. About 1620 she married Simon Bradstreet, her father’s assistant. On March 29, 1630, Bradstreet and her family sailed for the New World. After several years, they finally settled on a farm in North Andover, Massachusetts in 1644. Simon Bradstreet became a judge, royal councilor, and twice a governor of the colony. Anne Bradstreet became mother to eight children and wrote only privately. She was frequently ill and apparently developed a vaguely morbid mind set and was continually distressed by the culturally ingrained condescension toward women. Her first public work may well have been the epitaph she penned for her mother in 1643. Four years later, her brother-in-law carried a collection of her poems with him to England where he had them published. They appeared as ‘The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts’ in the New World in 1650. While it did sell in England, the volume was not well received in Massachusetts. Although she continued to write for herself and her family, no more of her work was published in her lifetime. She was purportedly buried in the Old Burying Point in Salem, Massachusetts beside her husband, though other locations for her grave have also been proposed. In 1678 her ‘Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning’ was posthumously published followed by ‘The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse.’ She is now considered the earliest of American poets and among the finest of her age. (bio by: Iola)

Now that Anne is a little bit funny she is a better poetry muse to me.  Dorothy Parker, as my muse, as nixed the whole #Trwurse and #Twessings concept.  She did wonderful intricate play on words before twitter and is not at all amused by the substitution of tw to indicate twitter being witty.  She is right, of course.  Nursing mothers are already occupying the #Twursing hashtag, as is the PGA.  Back to the word board, sans #tw.  I still like the blessings and curses for twitter, but am now inclined to call them just that.  I have also realized that February is the perfect time to write short and funny rhymes..on Valentines.  I feel okay about breaking out of my impersonal poetic rut because I have written a food poem and one Valentine that are in new territory.  I have not said anything very funny yet, but think I will sometime soon. I aspire to write jokes that would be understood hundreds of years into the future, in case they are discovered, but still be funny now.  Contrived twitter words will not be funny enough to last hundreds of years, but will seem like Olde English does to us now.  Best to go for eternal when crafting a joke or a pun….



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great poem – it must have been so difficult for women way back then, but def. sense of humour – all the best in your efforts to leave a smile hundreds of years in the future:)



February 6, 2015

This is why I think it is important to develop voice..we are not only free to do it but to digitally post it all over the world. Thanks. I think she was pretty cool


Pamela Morse

February 6, 2015

That’s a great way to define work .. because it is like a child.. that also allows you to freely define what it is — or isn’t.. And how hard it was to “give birth” to the writing project. I think it’s not quite coincidence that you find her voice and manner to clearly. It’s like she speaks to you across the centuries.


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

February 7, 2015

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