Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Dear Gentle Readers,
In April I write 30 poems in 30 days to honor my famous ancestor who was an exceptional poet and a special kind of historian. Today I join folks from around the world to participate in this year’s #NaPoWriMo. Since it is a global initiative it is also known as #GloPoWriMo to make it clear that everyone is invited. You can follow both these hashtags on twitter or Facebook for more information. I invite you to partake as a fan or a poet. You my be surprised at the poet you find inside of yourself. There are many wonderful styles of writing to discover in this treasure trove of artistic expression. Don’t be shy. Write a poem.
Please sit down, relax, take a load off your feet
While I tell you the story of Ann Dudley Bradstreet
She published her poetry in the Puritan times
Her English is old school, her well crafted rhymes
Were concerned with religion and current events
She made poignant requests to her progeny to stay
On the right side of God’s will, never sit on the fence
She begged us to be ethical, honest, virtuous and bold
Her legacy is eloquent, the details of our family were told
In real time as America took unexpected turns toward liberty
Finding her voice as a woman was a rare privilege, an anomaly
As her descendant I call on her esteemed presence in April every year
I ask for her assistance to drop a few decent beats, to be pertinent and clear
And so, dear ancestor, now scattered into stardust and moonbeams
Visit me with your discipline, your wisdom, and all of your ancient dreams
To follow in your footsteps I am going to require a great deal of your love
Look down on your daughter here on earth, send inspiration from above
If we were having coffee this month I would ask my coffee friends around the table to ride the poetry train if you are able. I know it is corny and may turn perverse. I assure you than in May I will return to verse. The coffee share and the poetry train go well as a duo, in my opinion. Help yourself to coffee, tea, and poetry. For more digital beverages and prose, please visit Nerd in the Brain. The weekly party is always interesting and stimulating.
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:
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.
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….
My 9th great grandmother was the first woman poet to be published in America:
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, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts”, 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.
It is clear to see that Anne’s faith was exemplary, and so was her love for children and her husband, Governor Simon Bradstreet. Anne’s poems were written mainly during the long periods of loneliness while Simon was away on political errands. Anne, who was a well educated woman, also spent much time with her children, reading to them and teaching them as her father had taught her when she was young. While it is rather easy for us to view Puritan ideology in a bad light because of it’s attitude towards women and strict moral code, her indifference to material wealth, her humility and her spirituality, regardless of religion, made her into a positive, inspirational role model for any of us.
Another one of Anne’s most important qualities was her strong intuition, although only subtly hinted at in her work, probably for fear of reprisal from the deeply religious Puritan community, one cannot help but feel her constant fascination with the human mind, and spirit, and inner guidance.
Her style is deceptively simple, yet speaks of a woman of high intelligence and ideals who was very much in love, and had unconditional faith. While it was difficult for women to air their views in the 17th Century, Anne Bradstreet did so with ease, as her rich vocabulary and polyvalent knowledge brought a lyrical, yet logical quality to her work which made it pleasant for anyone to read.
Anne Dudley Bradstreet was protected by her father and husband at a time when women were not supposed to think, let alone write poetry. She wrote history as she lived it as an Englishwoman in New England. I visited the University of Arizona Poetry Center this week to see the word shrine for the dead. I was very happy to also find a big blue book by Anne Bradstreet on the shelves. I enjoyed the wonderful space and visited with my ancestor by reading her works for about an hour. I had seen some of the work before, but since I was thinking of ancestry I really enjoyed the note she wrote to her son Simon (brother of my own ancestor). There is a copy preserved in her own hand, which I love to see. It gives me some intuition into her soul’s journey. Being a Pilgrim was not easy, but if your father and husband were governors you had some obvious advantages.
It is a wonderment of synchronicity to find my ancestor’s work preserved at the Poetry Center very near my home where I can go visit and read her any time.