The Poetry of Anne Bradstreet

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11467

Social media let us express ourselves but rarely encourage lasting creativity. Study America's first published poet, a Puritan immigrant from England, and create a slideshow about her lasting impact!

categories

Literary Studies

subject
Reading
learning style
Visual
personality style
Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

If you immigrated to a new country, how do you think you would spend your free time? Do you think you would spend it writing poetry?

What would your hobbies be if you moved to a new country?

Would one new hobby be writing poetry? If you were Anne Bradstreet, the answer would be "Yes!"

Bradstreet is known as America's first published woman poet. However, her work was published in England rather than America.There were several reasons for this, one being that American society was in its infancy and it was difficult to get any material printed; but the main reason was because women in Puritan society were not permitted to lead public lives and were expected to confine themselves to their private domestic circles.

Bradstreet was not even born in America. She was born in England in 1612 and immigrated to America in 1630. The only book of poetry that was published during her lifetime was printed in 1650 in England. The book was titled, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. Bradstreet's work was only published in America in 1678, six years after her death.

To learn more about Bradstreet's extraordinary life, read Anne Bradstreet by Ann Woodlief from the Virginia Commonwealth Academy. As you read the biography, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  1. What education did Bradstreet have as a young girl?
  2. Why did Bradstreet immigrate to America?
  3. What was life like for early Puritan settlers?
  4. What type of relationship did Bradstreet have with her husband?
  5. Who was the primary audience for most of Bradstreet's poetry during her lifetime?
  6. How did Bradstreet feel about Puritan religious beliefs?
  7. What themes did Bradstreet often incorporate into her poetry?

After you have answered all of the questions, review the answers with your parent or teacher.

anne bradstreet

Image is painting of Anne Bradstreet, courtesy of PoetryFoundation.org

So far, you have learned about Bradstreet's unusual life as an early Puritan settler. Recall one interesting fact you learned about Bradstreet's life and share it with your parent or teacher.


You are now ready to learn more about Bradstreet's poetry — the poems she wrote while raising eight children and taking care of the family home during the long absences of her husband, Simon.

To find out more about Bradstreet's poetry, watch this Anne Bradstreet video from EnglishGuyinTexas. As you watch the video, pay careful attention to the themes Bradstreet used in her poetry:

 

Anne Bradstreet's poetry can be divided into three major categories:

  1. Public poetry Poetry that includes reflections on Puritan issues, celebratory poems in praise of individuals such as Philip Sidney and Queen Elizabeth I, and poems that reflect on her role as a writer and poet.
  2. Quasi-public verse that fulfills the public role of dutiful child — These poems reveal elements of her private world, but they also serve a community role in honoring one's parents after death.
  3. Private, domestic poetry These poems tend to focus on family loss, the lessons that illness brings, worry for her family's safety, and expressions of love for her husband.

Bradstreet's poems often made reference to the following topics:

  • The providence, mercy, and wrath of God revealed in illness, loss, suffering, and safety
  • The order and plan of the natural world, human history, and faith
  • The gifts and limitations of the poet
  • The honor due to women
  • The Puritan community and its idealistic goals
  • The duty and respect due to parents
  • The love and care for one's husband and children

Bradstreet wrote her poems using what is known as the Puritan Plain Style. The characteristics of this style are:

  • A direct and simple language or word choice.
  • Orderly and easy-to-follow structure.
  • Didactic lessons (poems were intended to teach a lesson to the reader).
  • Rhyming couplets.

For the first published American woman poet, Bradstreet's work incorporated a variety of themes and techniques, which is why her work is still read more than 350 years after its initial publication.

Are there any topics that Bradstreet used in her poetry that surprise you? Discuss your answer with your parent or teacher before moving to the Got It? section to read some of Bradstreet's poems.

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