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The Poems of Phillis Wheatley: With Letters and a Memoir

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At the age of 19, Phillis Wheatley was the first black American poet to publish a book. Her elegies and odes offer fascinating glimpses of the beginnings of African-American literary traditions.


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At the age of 19, Phillis Wheatley was the first black American poet to publish a book. Her elegies and odes offer fascinating glimpses of the beginnings of African-American literary traditions.

51 review for The Poems of Phillis Wheatley: With Letters and a Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gina Johnson

    If you read this and get tired of all the “To x on the Death of y” poems make sure you don’t miss the memoir at the back. It was mentioned that she never refused to try and compose a poem when someone asked her and that was why there were so many regarding the death of people. The memoir also really made me think about what it takes for a “creative life” in different people. It seems to often be born out of adversity, but then there are some adversities that just seem to beat down and degrade th If you read this and get tired of all the “To x on the Death of y” poems make sure you don’t miss the memoir at the back. It was mentioned that she never refused to try and compose a poem when someone asked her and that was why there were so many regarding the death of people. The memoir also really made me think about what it takes for a “creative life” in different people. It seems to often be born out of adversity, but then there are some adversities that just seem to beat down and degrade the soil beyond the point of creativity....

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Phyllis Wheatley gets five stars. The publisher gets zero. The poetry in this book is beautiful, lyrical, incredible. It held my attention so much more deeply than any other poetry of the period. So many bits I highlighted and tattooed on my heart. The letters at the beginning also provided interesting historical context. It would be 5 stars for Phyllis Wheatley’s sheer talent. BUT. That “memoir” at the end is not a memoir, but a biography written by her oppressors. It is offensive that the publish Phyllis Wheatley gets five stars. The publisher gets zero. The poetry in this book is beautiful, lyrical, incredible. It held my attention so much more deeply than any other poetry of the period. So many bits I highlighted and tattooed on my heart. The letters at the beginning also provided interesting historical context. It would be 5 stars for Phyllis Wheatley’s sheer talent. BUT. That “memoir” at the end is not a memoir, but a biography written by her oppressors. It is offensive that the publisher would even include the words of two white relative of her former masters, much less allow them to tell the story of Phyllis’s life. There was so much in that “memoir” that was just... wrong. They said she was blessed by a bad memory that kept her from remembering Africa, even though she had a demonstrably incredible memory in life. Likely, Phyllis remembered Africa, having been seven when she left and having the separation from her mother be fairly traumatic. My guess is SHE JUST DIDN’T WANT TO DISCUSS HER TRAUMA WITH HER OPPRESSORS. They owned her body, yes, but she wouldn’t give them freely if the secret parts of her soul. Even if I’m wrong in that, to have white relatives of the people who ENSLAVED her write the story of her life and then to call it a “memoir” to imply that it’s the same as if she herself has written it is gross. Zero stars to the publishers who thought that was a good idea.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I read this in tandem with the book The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers I think I would have enjoyed these poems more if they were annotated or at least in chronological order. It was difficult to appreciate a few of them without knowing the story behind the people they were about. It was also difficult to follow any sort of creative progression since only a few of the poems were dated. The memoir at the back helped a little bit I read this in tandem with the book The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers I think I would have enjoyed these poems more if they were annotated or at least in chronological order. It was difficult to appreciate a few of them without knowing the story behind the people they were about. It was also difficult to follow any sort of creative progression since only a few of the poems were dated. The memoir at the back helped a little bit to understand how the family that bought her felt about her and her poetry. I enjoyed the Gates book about her and her experience a lot more though. Highly recommend that book if you are interested in learning about Phillis Wheatley and her experience.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julianne Noel

    I was interested in reading this after PW’s poetic work was referred to in Stamped from the Beginning. This book of poetry which opens with the statement of distinguished men of the time signing their approvals that these were indeed Phillis Wheatley’s poems is a marker of historical significance. I also enjoyed the memoir attached to the ending. The memoir calls the poems a “production of early and happy days“ - Even though Phillis wrote many funeral poems. Although they are written from a hope I was interested in reading this after PW’s poetic work was referred to in Stamped from the Beginning. This book of poetry which opens with the statement of distinguished men of the time signing their approvals that these were indeed Phillis Wheatley’s poems is a marker of historical significance. I also enjoyed the memoir attached to the ending. The memoir calls the poems a “production of early and happy days“ - Even though Phillis wrote many funeral poems. Although they are written from a hopeful perspective in my humble optic the collection carries with it an air of sorrow.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Penninga

    Beautiful poetry and a lovely memoir at the end, written by Wheatley’s great-nieces. What a legacy she left them, living a life filled with grand experienced, but also devastating trauma. Coming in a slave ship at 7, she writes poetry about life, death, faith, religion, and America/England/ Africa. Her poetry will be a beautiful addition to AP LIT as the first African-American poet to be published. “Indulgent Muse! my groveling mind inspire, and fill me bosom with celestial fore.” “Overwhelming s Beautiful poetry and a lovely memoir at the end, written by Wheatley’s great-nieces. What a legacy she left them, living a life filled with grand experienced, but also devastating trauma. Coming in a slave ship at 7, she writes poetry about life, death, faith, religion, and America/England/ Africa. Her poetry will be a beautiful addition to AP LIT as the first African-American poet to be published. “Indulgent Muse! my groveling mind inspire, and fill me bosom with celestial fore.” “Overwhelming sorrow now demands my song: From death the overwhelming sorrow sprung.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Skella

    Wheatley's poems provide insight, but were a bit repetitive. These poems showed how much empathy Wheatley had for others and how she tried to comfort them through their hardships. Wheatley's poems provide insight, but were a bit repetitive. These poems showed how much empathy Wheatley had for others and how she tried to comfort them through their hardships.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mcwilliams

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

  9. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen McDonough

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Allen

  12. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shelbi Gillette

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brett

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adulting Avoidance Activities

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brice Fuqua

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fenia

  18. 5 out of 5

    Helen K

    Elana

  19. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karina Coombs

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kari

  22. 5 out of 5

    Everywriter

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  26. 5 out of 5

    CZ McCarthy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Cleary

  29. 4 out of 5

    C Hartley

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jolene

  31. 5 out of 5

    Sean Endress

  32. 4 out of 5

    Amber

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

  34. 5 out of 5

    Danika

  35. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  36. 5 out of 5

    Ciarán

  37. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  38. 5 out of 5

    Corrie

  39. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  40. 5 out of 5

    Clinton Stockwell

  41. 5 out of 5

    Cgensheer

  42. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  43. 4 out of 5

    milly williams

  44. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  45. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Vellia

  46. 4 out of 5

    Khadesia

  47. 4 out of 5

    Lee Ann

  48. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

  49. 4 out of 5

    Jinx:The:Poet {the Literary Masochist, Ink Ninja & Word Roamer}

  50. 4 out of 5

    seath johnson

  51. 5 out of 5

    Kim

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