Cop a Bradstreet Attitude

January 23, 2019


Messy Nest 

a monthly feature by 

Amy Alexander 


Cop a Bradstreet Attitude 



It’s the new year.


To the animals and trees, this is just another day when the planet is bathing in long or short light at different poles. Yet humans feel the need to take a long look at what they did last year and want to do this year.


I always find myself tottering between two feelings: One, that I should place my parental and family duties before all else.


And two, resenting the hell out of the washing, the fixing, and the putting crap away, wishing I could while away the hours before the fire with my notebooks, a stack of books, and a computer screen locked on one of several new online journal issues.


This “Do I make art or dinner?” line of thinking got me digging for other poets who might have strained against family duties and managed to create, anyway. (You should know that I research for procrastination and also to give myself pep talks.)


I landed on poet Anne Bradstreet.

Bradstreet (1612-72) had five children between the ages of newborn and 9 when she put quill to paper to write "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America" (1650), the first volume of poetry published by a North American.


Bradstreet had three more children after she inked "The Tenth Muse," yet she kept filling notebooks with carefully crafted poems and also having more children.


"Very often, her husband traveled," Bradstreet scholar Sheila Willard said. "She would be home alone with the eight children, running the household. ... You made your own soap, you sheared the sheep, spun the yarn from their wool, then you loomed it, then you sewed your clothes. The work must have been nonstop."


By candlelight, after the household had gone to bed, Bradstreet wrote with full abandon.


This very act of a woman expressing herself at that time was radical and dangerous:


Women in Bradstreet’s era (think Salem Witch Trials) were considered to have the mental capacity of squirrels. If they thought too much, the masses assumed, they'd go nuts or become evil.


"She must have endured painful reproaches from some quarters," said author Cheryl Walker.


In 1650, Bradstreet’s brother-in-law stole her poetry manuscript and peddled it to publishers during a trip to England.


This, in itself, seems an act of extreme violation. One of the chief freedoms an artist has is in whether or not to send work out. Lately, the Twitterverse has been all ab