Researching and writing about puritan poet Anne Bradstreet

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Poetry for Dummies

Bad news, folks . . . writing poetry is more than rhyming emotion-laden words in meter.  Worse news:  17th-century poetry was a craft as much as an art, and I think I probably should learn a lot of the under-the-hood stuff if I’m going to understand Ole Annie, my poet buddy whose life I’m trying to recreate.

I’ve had some helps in this department -- a couple of books, good ones:  Puritan Poets and Poetics, and Sinful Self, Saintly Self:  the Puritan Experience of Poetry.  They have further directed me to a 16-the century book,The Art of English Poesie, which is a great window into the craft of poetry writing.  But . . . sigh.  Constructing a poem is like building a cathedral; it has rules and conventions and its own terminology as well.  And I should know something about all that so I can understand what the heck she was attempting when she sat down to write.  So I have to learn it.  Some of it.  Enough to get along; the poetic equivalent of “Ou est la salle de bain?” for the American in France.  Well, more than that, I guess.

And when I finish that, maybe I can go back to learning about 17th-century ships, a task I happily set aside last spring.  Humph.

I can’t even figure out what a “foot” is.  It’s a poetic term, and it’s related to syllables, but it’s not syllables.  Mr. Poesie Art didn’t make it clear, and I haven’t consulted Dr. Google yet.

But I am learning.  Learning, learning, learning, getting comfy inside Anne Bradstreet’s mental world, and painting it out again in a story that is now at about 30,000 words.


  1. Maybe if you learn enough, you can become a poet too? :) It'd be worth a try for ol' Anne's sake.

    1. I'm thinking about trying it, Maria, after I solve mysteries like "feet" -- write something in the style, and with the purpose, of that era, just to see what it's like. :)