Poetry She-roes

10/24/2017 09:48 am ET

The newest poet laureate of the United States is Tracy K. Smith, the director of the creative writing program at Princeton University, who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. The poet laureate signs the guest book at the Poetry Office at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., generally serves a one-year term, and provides an opening lecture at the Library of Congress (the rest of the duties are undefined). Smith follows in the footsteps of other female poet laureates and poetry she-roes. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

_____ 1. A Pulitzer Prize recipient, she is the only poet to date to have received both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts.

_____ 2. The third women to receive the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (1923), she later received the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement in poetry.

_____ 3. Named the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, she writes verse novels and was the first Latino to receive the Newbery Honor.

_____ 4. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow who writes poetry, essays, short stories and novels.

_____ 5. Her book of poetry was published in London in 1650.

A. Anne Bradstreet

B. Edna St. Vincent Millay

C. Sandra Cisneros

D. Rita Dove

E. Margarita Engle

Anne Bradstreet’s 1650 book of poetry, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was published in London to favorable reviews and King George III was reputed to have had a copy in his library. Born and raised in England, Bradstreet did not attend school but did receive an excellent education from her father. She and her husband emigrated to the New World in 1630 (when she was eighteen), where their eight children were born. In addition to raising her children, Bradstreet wrote poetry. Her poetry reflects conflicts between the Puritan religion and her views as a woman. Her first poem was published when she was nineteen. Her 1650 collection was the first book published by a writer in the North American colonies and the first example of Puritan literature.

The third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (1923), Edna St. Vincent Millay came to public attention in 1912 (at age twenty) when her mother saw an announcement for a poetry contest and Millay submitted some of her poems to The Lyric Year. The resulting recriminations when she did not win first place resulted in a generous donor paying her tuition to Vassar College. Her poetry had been published in multiple publications by the time she was 15 and she graduated from Vassar College in 1917. Embarking on her career as a poet and playwright, Millay was a feminist whose poem The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. In 1943, Millay became the sixth person and second woman to receive the Robert Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to poetry in America.

A poet in addition to being a novelist, essayist, and short story writer, Sandra Cisneros focuses her writing on the working class, and particularly the Chicano experience. A MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient, Cisneros is a citizen of the U.S. and Mexico. She received the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama in 2016. Her best known work is her novel The House on Mango Street which has sold over six million copies and been translated into over twenty languages. She has published two full-length poetry books and one chapbook.

The Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995, Rita Dove also served as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. Her many published poetry collections include her 1990 On the Bus with Rosa Parks. She has also published short stories, essays, and plays. Her many honors include the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1987), the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton, and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama (the only poet to date to receive both of these medals). She is currently serving as the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

The Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle is the first Latino to receive this honor. She writes verse novels and has won many awards including the Newbery Honor, the first Latino to receive this award. That honor was for The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom (2008). Feeling a strong kinship to her father’s native Cuba, she studied agronomy and botany as well as writing during her college years. She has also published numerous picture books.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women who write poetry are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.

(Answers: 1-D, 2-B, 3-E, 4-C, 5-A)

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