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Excerpt: 'Oxford Book of American Poetry'

Born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England, the first American poet had rheumatic fever as a child and contracted smallpox just before marrying Cambridge graduate Simon Bradstreet. With John Winthrop's fleet in 1630, the couple sailed to America, where both Bradstreet's husband and her father would serve as governors of Massachusetts. Anne Bradstreet became the mother of eight children and the author of a manuscript that her brother-in-law brought back to London and published without her knowledge in 1650 under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. Six years after her death a second and enlarged edition of her poems appeared in Boston. John Berryman found it expedient to adopt her voice in his long poem Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1953). "I didn't like her work, but I loved her -- I sort of fell in love with her," he explained.

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