Thursday, 14 February 2008

Interview With Phillis Wheatley

This blog will look at the life of Phillis Wheatley, a slave and poet who lived in the mid-eighteenth century in Boston, Massachusetts. In order to help you understand more about her life, I will post some important information about her, based on questions I had when I did the research on her life.

It is winter, 1784...

MRS. B: Good morning, Mistress Wheatley. It's a pleasure to meet you. I've read your poetry and I enjoy it. I'm curious, though. I read somewhere that you were born in Africa. How did you come to be living in America?

PW: Good morning! I am happy to be here. Yes, I was born in Senegal, but when I was eight years old, I was taken by force from my home and brought to Boston. John Wheatley bought me as a personal servant for his wife, Susanna. My last name is theirs because that was the custom then - slaves were given the last names of their masters.

MRS. B: How interesting. I guess that means you used to speak French. It must have been hard for you to learn English, and yet your work is in English. Tell me how that happened.

PW: When I got to Boston, the Wheatleys taught me English. In fact, they gave me an education, although I was a slave. I was also taught some Latin, ancient history, mythology and classical literature. I was well educated, for a slave. (She smiles at that.) I had a very unique existence. I was not a member of their family, but I didn't fit in with the other slaves, either, because I was educated, and could read and write. I was fortunate that they allowed me to write, and I developed a love for poetry.

MRS. B: I understand that you had a very interesting life. You were freed, you married, and had children. Can you give me more details about all that?

PW: I began to write and publish poems after I was returned from a trip to England with my master's son, Nathaniel. My mistress was very ill, and I was needed at home. Before they died, I wrote a poem for George Washington which he read and he enjoyed. I have written many poems for him. Eventually, both my master and mistress died, and I married John Peters, a free black man. We had a hard life, because he couldn't find steady employment, and we lost two children. All this was happening during the American Revolution, so life was hard for us. I have had a few of my poems published, but now that John is no longer here, I have to work as a scullery maid. I have very little time to write.

Friday, 1 February 2008

"Cogito, ergo scribo!" (I think, therefore I write!)

February 1, 2008

I am a writer. It's what I do when I wake up first thing in the morning. I say hello to three friends, who always send me an IM overnight. One of my friends lives in Australia, another in England, the third in Pennsylvania. It's bedtime in Australia now, and afternoon in England.

But I digress. I say hello to each of these three friends every morning before I leave my house. Usually I can't wait for them to reply, because I leave my house early (or late, for my friend in Australia!), but I know that if I check later in the day, they will have answered me. I love to get their answers. They make me laugh, or cry, or smile, depending on what they tell me.

February 4, 2008

Sorry! I told you, I think, therefore I write. It's been a couple of days now, since I first began writing this, and in the interim, I have written a thre part series on midlife crises for women, two blogs on African American music, in honor of Black History Month, and an excerpt of a story. I am always writing.

Why, this morning, before coming here to class to finish this blog, I wrote the rest of a course description for a senior English class that I'm teaching. And I had to post a couple of comments on a couple of friends' pages about blogs they had posted, and I sent an e-mail note to the principal.

If I were unable to write, to compose, I think I'd shrivel up and die. I need it, like I need air, and blood, and food, and water, to live. Everything on this blog is about me. it shows you who I am, what I think about things, where my interests and affections lie. To get to know me - I mean REALLY know me - you'll need to read my work.