Saturday, March 18, 2017

New York at Sunrise as Seen by Anna Hempstead Branch

photo © Mark Butkus 2007
The Empire State pierces the morning fog.

When with her clouds the early dawn illumes
Our doubtful streets, wistful they grow and mild
As if a sleeping soul grew happy and smiled,
The whole dark city radiantly blooms.
Pale spires lift their hands above the glooms
Like a resurrection, delicately wild,
And flushed with slumber like a little child,
Under a mist, shines forth the innocent Tombs.
Thus have I seen it from a casement high.
As unsubstantial as a dream it grows.
Is this Manhattan, virginal and shy,
That in a cloud so rapturously glows?
Ethereal, frail, and like an opening rose,
I see my city with an enlightened eye.

— Anna Hempstead Branch

Referred to as "the Browning of American poetry" by noted journalist William Thomas Stead, the Connecticut born Anna Hempstead Branch (1875–1937) was regarded as a major poet during her life publishing three acclaimed poetry collections during her lifetime.

Born this day in 1875, Hempstead Branch is best known for Shoes That Danced (1905), Rose of the Wind (1910) and Sonnets from a Lock Box (1929). Her final collection — published posthumously — was the appropriately titled Last Poems (1944).

Ms. Hempstead Branch helped bring poetry to the masses through her founding of the Poets' Guild of Christodora House. The Poets Guild produced the Unbound Anthology series of poems that were sold on the streets of New York for five cents and funded the House. Poets that she brought to Christodora House included Sara Teasdale and Robert Frost.

The sonnet New York at Sunrise is from the New York Sonnets section in Shoes that Danced.

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