Lessons from a Puritan Poet



High school and college students, who suffered through the works of the Puritan writers in those required American Literature courses, might remember Anne Bradstreet. Or maybe not. Poems like “Upon the Burning of our House” don’t exactly rank up there for its titillating imagery or thought-provoking themes. But she was, in her own right, a trailblazer, a Puritan writing poetry, at a time when such pursuits were considered quite frivolous.. And need I mention that she was indeed a woman? 1642 wasn’t exactly a pivotal time for women’s rights, So yes, she was sort of a bad ass. But it happened accidentally.


Stay with me, I do have a point…..


I have been thinking about her lately. And yes, my random thoughts often take me to such places. In fact, she has become some sort of strange historical mentor, leading me to revisit “The Author to her Book,” her poem about how she feels after becoming published. The background story is interesting. She has written poetry for her own amusement. Not daring to show it to anyone, she keeps it hidden. But when her well-meaning family finds it, they send it off to be published. Of course, she is mortified rather than thrilled, second guessing every word, every line. Her feelings of inadequacy haunt her as she doubts that her simple poems are good enough, concerned about how they will be received. (Well, she did manage to make it into every high school and college literary anthology from that time period, so I guess her works did prove to be worthy.)


So I started to wonder if every writer feels this way.


I can’t speak for anybody else, but I keep telling myself that I need one last edit, one final read- through before I pull the trigger and send Angelique’s Storm out into the world. And I wonder if I will ever be confident that it is ready for a reading public, one who will ultimately judge its worth in a most subjective way. I have to admit, it is pretty scary to turn those secret dreams into a most public reality.


We are, of course, our own worst critics, right? And as I sit here with my finger on the “send” button, I have to keep swatting the little elf perched on my shoulder who keeps whispering, “not yet.” But sometimes, you have to just jump out of the plane, hoping that your parachute was properly packed… especially if you have always wanted to skydive.


By the way, I wonder how Bradstreet’s relatives would have navigated the labyrinth that is the current publishing industry. That’s a question to ponder another day.

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