The Author To Her Book

The Author To Her Book

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Writing poetry can be a deeply personal (and sometimes painful) process. If talent and luck prevails, the poet will actually produce a something that reflects the inner workings that first motivated their pen to meet paper. Through struggle and sweat a poem is born, and for better or for worse the creator is responsible for the subsequent journey that it will take throughout it’s poetic life. In it’s infancy, it might seem a miracle of creation, but like most parents the writer will work at maturing the verse and rhyme so that it can defend itself when it eventually leaves home. The world that it will one day enter is a cold and critical one, and few will understand the true meaning and depth of the poem’s soul like it’s parent does.

Anne Bradstreet beautifully demonstrates the intimate relationship that exists between an artist and her work in the poem The Author to Her Book. In the poem she directly addresses the book that was published without her consent, referring to it as her child, kidnapped and exploited in a world of criticism. By exposing the her work to the world, she feels that her own inadequacies are revealed as well, thus creating an internal struggle between pride and shame. This paper will take a detailed look at the poem line by line, and draw out the deeper meanings that Bradstreet injected in regard to the book The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, her illegitimate brainchild.

In the first line Bradstreet refers to the book as an “ill formed offspring of [her] feeble brain.” This not only expresses her opinion of the work, but also that of her own abilities as a poet. She seems to feel no confidence, and says so upfront, as if to apologize to anyone who might have encountered her work. Although its flaws embarrass and shame her, she understands that her book is the offspring of her own "feeble brain", and the lamentable errors it displays are therefore her own.

In lines two through four she shows that her ‘child’, once safely kept close to her side, suddenly “snatched” away by friends “less wise than true,” and then “exposed to public view” before it had a chance to mature in her care. It’s in Bradstreet’s strong descriptive language that she is able to express her feelings of betrayal. Though she doesn’t outright say it, she obviously felt deceived, and suffered the same exposure that the book had.

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She seems to feel defenseless in this experience.

Lines five and six illustrate her published poems as dressed in “rags”, using the word “press” not only in the printing sense, but also in the context of meaning a clothes closet. She knows that the “errors were not lessened”, and feels frustration at her lack of control over the situation. This could be compared to the embarrassment a mother might feel if her child were taken to a fashion show in dirty rags before she had a chance to properly groom and dress her, (hence her likening the poem to being dressed in rags). Bradstreet feels that the publishing was done in haste without any thought to its preparation, nor was it done with regard for the poet’s sense of ownership.

In lines seven and eight, Bradstreet equates the embarrassment she feels due to her as-yet-unperfected work to the shame a parent feels due to an ill-tempered child. She calls the book of poetry a “rambling brat (in print)” reinforcing the author’s feelings of incapability to change the untamed nature of what is now in print. It has been published and all may see it, whether she likes it or not. Worse yet, any criticism that it takes will be directly aimed at her, the mother, despite her innocence in the matter.

Lines nine and ten express her disappointment in the immaturity of the published poems. She deems them “unfit for light” and even goes on to say that they are “irksome in [her] sight”. One has to wonder if she is merely offended by the rawness of the work, or if reading the work reminds her of her own insecurities and creates an urgent need to put them out of view. Either way, she wishes that she could banish them from her sight, as well as the sight of everyone else.

But alas, she knows that she cannot abandon her work. The poems bear her name, which will forever tie them to her. In lines eleven and twelve she softens a bit, acknowledging her role as the creator and the affection that she feels toward the poetry. She wants to clean them up, wiping away the “blemishes”, hoping that she can somehow amend the situation. She knows that whether she likes it or not, these poems are a reflection of her heart and soul, and she must show them some compassion.

Lines thirteen through sixteen describe her attempts to clean up and perfect the child of her brain. Using beautifully crafted words, she personifies the book of poetry, giving it a face to wash, with joints and feet. Tenderly she tries to create perfection by performing some talented word-smithing, all the while trying to kill her own insecurities in the process. But with every washing a new flaw is uncovered. She attempts to even the ‘feet’ of the poem, but it still seems to limp around with inadequate balance. She feels it’s hopeless.

Though not completely obvious, lines seventeen and eighteen are written entirely to be self-depreciating. She wanted to prove her worth as a poet by improving the current state of the poetry, but feels that she lacks the talent to do so. “But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find” implies that she feels her creative mind (the “house”) is lacking in adequate tools to get the job done. Bradstreet doesn’t seem to feel that she is educated properly to perform the work of a poet

Line nineteen through twenty-one express her fear and sadness that the work will be rated among common people, and not as special as it was intended. The book is now in the hands of strangers who do not know or care about the nature of the poetry. As a parent I know that one of my biggest fears is for my daughter to be placed among people that do not know her, with no one to care for her. Bradstreet’s sense of motherhood over the subjugated book must leave her feeling helpless, as if it were a child from her loins and not her brain.

In the last three lines, twenty-two through twenty-four, Bradstreet leaves her child with an apology of its existence. The poem ends on a defeated note, almost as a plea for anyone reading to forgive her for the inability to be a master. She implies that she did her best, but could not measure up to her own imagined standards.

The poem as a whole was written in iambic pentameter with the line organization of a heroic couplet, (i.e., aa,bb,cc,dd…). The poet’s most remarkable poetic device is the use of metaphors. Through her deft use of extended metaphor, Bradstreet weaves an intricate web of parallels between parent and author and between child and book--both relationships of creator to creation. This use of metaphor allows the reader to relate emotionally to Bradstreet’s situation.

“The Author to Her Book” reveals a deeper, unnamed feeling, which many of us have experienced. Having one’s inner-self exposed to the world for all to view and critique is a situation to which every writer can relate. Bradstreet’s poem makes us understand not only her nature but also our own. She uses her poem to interpret her hidden emotions and to give them a voice. By analyzing Bradstreet’s poem, we are better able to explore the words to see how they move and how they move us.
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