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After -- Lizette Woodworth Reese

(Poem #791) After
 Oh, the littles that remain!
 Scent of mint out in the lane;
 Flare of window; sound of bees; --
 These, but these.

 Three times sitting down to bread;
 One time climbing up to bed;
 Table-setting o'er and o'er;
 Drying herbs for winter's store;
 This thing; that thing; -- nothing more.

 But just now out in the lane,
 Oh, the scent of mint was plain!
-- Lizette Woodworth Reese
A common theme in poetry - the transporting effects of memory. Indeed,
today's poem says nothing particularly *new*, but it says it well. Reese's
poetry has been praised for its 'intensity and concision', a summing up with
which I fully agree, and which shows to very good effect in 'After'. The
contrast between the dull monotony of routine and the sharp spice of a
memory is beautifully evoked in a few, short words, crystallising around the
very different tones of 'these, but these' and 'this thing; that thing; --
nothing more'.

Biography and criticism:

  Reese, Lizette Woodworth

  1856-1935, American poet, b. Waverly, Md.

  Lizette Woodworth Reese was a professional, independent woman from the
  time she left high school in 1873. She began her teaching career that year
  and published her first poem in Baltimore's Southern Magazine in 1874. She
  taught for 45 years in the public schools of Baltimore. Her poetry and her
  readings of it were particularly popular in women's groups throughout the
  United States. She was one of the founders of the Woman's Literary Club of
  Baltimore and its chairman of poetry until her death in 1935. In April,
  1931 she was named Poet Laureate of the General Federation of Women's
  Clubs. In that same month, she was iven an honorary doctorate of
  literature by Goucher College which called her one of the "greatest living
  women in America."

  In her lifetime, Reese was internationally admired for her poetic genius
  and hailed by H.L. Mencken as one of the most distinguished poets in the
  United States. This volume is the first extensive collection of her poems
  since her Selected Poems was published in 1926.

        -- From the description of "In Praise of Common Things"

  In the 1920s when women in great numbers were again publishing her kind of
  poetry, Reese began to re-emerge as a poet. Robert Hariss claims that both
  Teasdale and Millay were "deeply indebted" to her.

        From Cheryl Walker, "The Nightingale's burden : women poets and
        American culture before 1900."
        -- [broken link]

  [Read the whole thing - it's good]

  Her poetry, remarkable for its intensity and concision, has been compared
  to that of Emily Dickinson. She is probably best remembered for the sonnet
  "Years". [I think that last is a typo for 'Tears' - m.]

        -- [broken link]


  Reiterating the essay on pre-1900 woman poets:
    -- [broken link]

Some previous poems I was reminded of (for various reasons):

  poem #206
  poem #236
  poem #323
  poem #373
  poem #464
  poem #670

- martin

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