Anna Hempstead Branch

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Anna Hempstead Branch
Born Hempsted House in New London, Connecticut
Occupation Poet
Language English
Nationality American

Anna Hempstead Branch (March 18, 1875 – September 8, 1937)[1] was an American poet. She was regarded as a major poet during her life[1] and William Thomas Stead called her "the Browning of American poetry".[2]

Early life[edit]

Branch was born at Hempsted House in New London, Connecticut, the younger child of John Locke Branch, a lawyer, and Mary Lydia Bolles Branch (1840–1922), a children's author and poet who was part of the Hempstead family, who had lived in the area since 1640.

Education[edit]

Branch spent most of her school years in New York and Brooklyn where she studied at Froebel and Adelphi Academies and then Smith College, due to her father's law practice being in that area.[3] Branch graduated from Smith College in 1897 and went on to study dramaturgy at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating in 1900.[1][4] In 1898, the year after her graduation, her poem "The Road 'Twixt Heaven and Hell" was selected as the year's best verse by a college graduate by Century Magazine.[3]

Branch's reputation was made with her next two collections, both heavily influenced by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Christina Rossetti.[5] The Shoes That Danced (1905) features odd settings and characters. Rose of the Wind (1910) contains "The Wedding Feast", a reworking of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and her most famous single poem, "Nimrod", a blank verse epic about the ancient king.[1] The title work, a dramatic poem, was staged at the Empire Theatre in 1908.[2]

Sonnets from a Lock Box (1929) is regarded as her best work.[1][5] It is a collection of thirty-eight sonnets using the first person, noted for its directness and mystical symbolism.[1] Her final collection of poetry, Last Poems (1944), was published posthumously by Ridgely Torrence.[1] Branch was also the author of A Christmas Miracle and God Bless this House (1925) and Bubble Blower's House (1926).[1]

Branch was also known for her philanthropy, mostly centered around Christodora House, a settlement house in New York City. There she created the Poet's Guild, whose members, including Edwin Arlington Robinson, William Rose Benét, Percy MacKaye, and Margaret Widdemer, taught classes at the house.[2][4] Branch was also vice president of the Poetry Society of America.[2]

Later life[edit]

In 1918 she served as the vice president of the National League for Women's Service and chaired the education and festival committees in the War Camp Community Service.[3] She founded and directed the Poets' Guild of Christodora House which thrived due to her assiduous attention and ability to enlist the participation of an impressive array of fellow poets. Among this involved were Edwin Markham, Josephine Preston Peabody, Percy MacKaye, William Rose Benét, Margaret Widdemer, Ridgely Torrence, Sara Teasdale, Robert Frost, and Edwin Arlington Robinson.[3] Branch was very active in trying to bring poetry into people's lives during the 1910s and 1920s. The Guild also created the "Unbound Anthology". Poems were nicely printed and sold for five cents each, people were able to get poetry cheaply and the profits would go back into the settlement house work.[3] in 1934 Branch received an honorary degree from Smith College.[3]

Branch never married. She died of cancer at the age of 62.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Krieg, Joann Peck (1979). "Anna Hempstead Branch". In Mainiero, Lina. American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. 1. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. 217–19. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Miss Anna Branch, poet and teacher: author of several volumes is dead". New York Times. 9 Sep 1937. p. 23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Brookhart, Mary Hughes, "Branch, Anna Hempstead"; http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01901.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  4. ^ a b c Edward T. James; Janet Wilson James; Paul S. Boyer; Radcliffe College (1971). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. pp. 226–8. ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Gilbert, Sandra M.; Gubar, Susan, eds. (1985). The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English (1st ed.). W.W. Norton. pp. 1337–8. ISBN 0393953912. 

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