Friday, April 30, 2010

32. A Poem of Her Own

Clinton, Catherine. Valiant. ISBN: 978-0-8109-4240-0. Abrams. First Edition, 2003.

Plot Summary
A Poem of her own is a celebration of female American poets, that showcases poetry from the perspective of American women throughout America's history. The poems in this collection are compiled by editor Catherine Clinton, and are composed in chronological order beginning with Anne Bradstreet's 1698 poem "The Author To Her Book," and ending with Naomi Shihab Nye's 2003 work titled "Women Who Came Before Us." Clinton gives a detailed introduction to this title, discussing the important and diverse women contained within the collection's pages. She also includes detailed biographies of the collection's 25 different poets at the conclusion of the book. The poems in the collection discuss a range of themes about being a woman in America. Early poems discuss oppression, and later poems discuss liberation, celebration, and reflection. This collection gives readers a unique look at the voice of women and how it has changed throughout American history.

Critical Evaluation

The voice of America's women sing in the poetry collection A Poem of Her Own. This collection of poetry comprises 25 of the most celebrated and important poems in America's history. Each of these poems is written from the unique perspective of women living in different time periods, ranging from the late 15th century to the early 21st. As this collection proceeds, readers can see how life and the outlook on life changed for American women. The subjects and themes explored by the poems in this collection are just as varied as the women who scribed them. Some poets like Phillis Wheatley were American slaves, while others like Emily Dickinson were secretive and reclusive. Many of the poems in A Poem of Her Own discuss themes of childhood, the female body, immigration, and the natural world. The collection also includes famous poems such as "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, and "Over the River and Through the Woods" by abolitionist Lydia Maria Child. This collection of poetry is inspiring, and gives teenage readers a glimpse into the struggles that American women fought to overcome through expression with the written word. Teenage girls will find strength in the words of these strong American women, and can use this strength, in turn, to inspire their own creative expression.

An added bonus to this poetry collection is the wonderful art by artist Stephen Alcorn. Alcorn presents a single illustration to accompany each of the 25 different poems and uses a more metaphorical approach to the subject matter in his compositions. Alcorn uses a muted color pallet and speckled effect that creates texture and age in his paintings. His dominant use of curved lines provides his compositions with a very feminine and organic feel. This feminine and organic feel is often contrasted with the juxtaposition of rigid and static shapes, symbolizing the harsh world that the female poets discuss in their poetry. A collection like is important for teenagers today. It gives them a valued look at American women, literature, and history. This collection celebrates the art of American women and gives them a new voice for a new generation.

Reader's Annotation
American woman have had a voice in this country through poetry for over 300 years. A Poem of Her Own compiles the poems of celebrated American women into a collection that spans America's vast history.

Author Information
A Poem of Her Own is a collection of poetry written by 25 different American women between the years of 1678 and 2003. The group of women who wrote this collection led different lives and witnessed America through different upbringings and experiences. Some of the poet's in this collection were slaves, such as Phillis Wheatley, while others were the daughter's of Chinese or Palestinian immigrants. Their differences give this collection a more complete view of American life through history. Despite their differences in age, culture,and social standings, these poets are joined by their experiences as American women.


Curriculum Ties
poetry, American Women, American History

Reading Level
Grades 7+

Book Talking Ideas
How has the voice of American woman changed since the founding of our country?
Discuss the various lives of the poets in the collection.
Read popular excerpts.

Challenge Issues

Reason For Selection
I wanted to include a collection of poetry in my blog that was written from the perspective of different female poets. While browsing through a poetry display in the young adult section of my local library, I happened to come across A Poem of Her Own. With the selection of this title, my blog contains a more balanced view of life as witnessed by women. This collection was written by slaves, abolitionists, feminists, Pulitzer Prize winners, socialites, and reclusive figures whose fame came only after death.

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