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The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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She Was Invisible

Thrown into a boat to be tossed
between two worlds/
far from home at age seven/
mind and body malnourished/
she was awash in the universal sea,
nameless until she reached a new
and strange land.

Soon precociously fluent in a new language,
she crafted adolescent feelings into delicately
bold images
that still stretch beyond eighteenth century barriers.

Meetings with American statesmen
and a President-in-waiting
failed to find her poems
in books
that her overbearing contemporary society
would deign to publish,
although they would read them with awe
once published by the soon-hated British.

Phillis Wheatley’s legacy:
that generations to come will cherish and find
the empathetic gems of her eternal mind.


Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa, sold into slavery, and bought by a Boston family, the Wheatleys, in 1761. Susannah Wheatley soon realized the incredible facility that Phillis had to learn languages. She loved writing poetry the most, even having a poem she wrote to George Washington published in the Pennsylvania Magazine. A collection of her poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was publised in London in 1773.

Featured image from the Radcliffe Institute.

Bill Chatfield is a board member of Peterborough Folk Music Society and founder of Peterborough Poetry Project. He is a retired postal classification specialist and philosopher.

Discover more from Bill Chatfield.