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Themes

At the very end of “The Author to Her Book,” the speaker says she had to sell her book, even though she’s not happy with it, because she’s poor. While we get a glimpse of this literal poverty, there are other, more metaphorical kinds of poverty throughout the poem. For example, the speaker claims to be imaginatively poor (“feeble brain”), which also explains (so she claims) why her book is a “child” dressed in “rags” (5) and “home-spun cloth” (18). At the same time, the book is also, ironically, very rich, metaphorically that is. If this poem is any indication, then we must assume that our speaker sure can write poems that are metrically correct, and clever. (Head over to “Form and Meter” for more on that.)

Questions About Poverty

  1. What does the speaker mean when she says she’s “poor” at the end? Financially poor? Poetically poor? Both? How do you know?
  2. Is it possible that the speaker isn’t “poor” at all and just uses that as an excuse? Why might she do this?
  3. Does the speaker seem at all ashamed of her poverty? How do you know?
  4. Why doesn’t the speaker want her book to hang with the critics? Is she worried that its poverty will subject it to ridicule or something?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sometimes the need for money makes us do things we don’t want to do, like publish a book we don’t like. Tough times, gang.

Poverty isn’t just about money; somebody could be “poor” when it comes to the imagination, or ideas, or artistic skill even. You could even be a poor dancer (not that, you know, we’d know anything about that… or anything).

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