Day — 492 — My Daily Thoughts Haibun Journey — Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and the second woman to publish a book of poems. As a child I admired Phillis her because of what she overcame and how she found a voice in poetry. I admired her literary skills of rhyme and meter and was amazed how in such a short time mastered, English, Greek and Latin. I was amazed because we were struggling as fourth graders to even write something that rhymed without the meter and in our native language.
Although she was a slave Phyllis was one of the best-known poets of the 19th century. Phillis was torn away from her family and sold as a slave at the tender age of eight.
The Wheatley’s who bought and named Phillis taught her to read and write. By the age of twelve she could read in English and Latin and Greek as well. She was given an unusual education for a woman and an unprecedented one for a slave. This did not mean that she was free, she was given l house duties but was kept from the influences of other African Americans so as not to become a threat to the family. Despite her education she longed for more to stimulate her intellect
The family encouraged her writing, and their son John took her to Europe where her poetry might have a greater chance of being published. Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon became Phillis’ patron and paid for the publication of her work. Her book was a great success in Europe, but in America many did not believe Phillis wrote the poems but merely transcribed them. Her mistress did free Phillis shortly after her return from Europe.
It is a sad to say that although she was the first published black poet, she died in abject poverty and her infant son shortly afterwards. It is sad to say that until recently her writings were looked down on as not speaking out about the slave condition. Further studies have shown her biblical allusion and its symbolic applications may well have been speaking out against slavery.