This comprehensive anthology celebrates four centuries of women’s poetry, covering over 100 poets from a wide range of social backgrounds across the English-speaking world. Familiar names – Anne Bradstreet, Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontë sisters, Emily Dickinson, and Christina Rossetti – appear alongside other writers from America, Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand as well as the UK.
The poets range from queens and ladies of the court to a religious martyr, a spy, a young slave, a milkmaid, labourers, servants, activists, invalids, émigrées and pioneers, a daring actor, and the daughter of a Native American chief.
Whether writing out of injustice, religious or sexual passion, humour, or to celebrate their sex, their different cultures, environments, personal beliefs and relationships, these women have strong, independent spirits and voices we cannot ignore. In 1652, speaking of the poems she had published as her ‘babes’, a woman we know only as ‘Eliza’, answered ‘a Lady that bragged of her children’: Thine at their birth did pain thee bring, When mine are born, I sit and sing.
Robyn Bolam’s helpfully annotated selection is illustrated with informative biographies. The texts are based on early editions or manuscripts but with modern spelling.