Lizette Woodworth Reese Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although primarily a poet, Lizette Woodworth Reese published at least fourteen short stories, which appeared in various literary magazines, including Harper’s, Lippincott’s, and Outlook. Five of these fictional pieces are reprinted in her semiautobiographical work The York Road (1931). In A Victorian Village: Reminiscences of Other Days (1929), Reese reminisces about her girlhood in and around Waverly, a hamlet on the outskirts of Baltimore. Reese’s only other major work is the unfinished Worleys (1936), a fictional piece published after her death. She also wrote a few essays on teaching and published several magazine poems that were not included in any of her books.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

By the time Lizette Woodworth Reese retired at the age of sixty-five from her position as a public school English teacher, she had published only about half of her poems. Yet to come were the poems in Wild Cherry, the new work contained in The Selected Poems of Lizette Woodworth Reese, and the long elegy Little Henrietta. Also still to come was the somewhat belated recognition as a significant contributor to the mainstream of American lyricism. By 1924, Reese began receiving the awards and honors that she deserved. The College of William and Mary initiated Reese as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1925, the Tudor and Stuart Club at The Johns Hopkins University selected Reese for honorary membership.

The most public expression of recognition occurred on December 15, 1926, when the George H. Doran Company, publisher of The Selected Poems of Lizette Woodworth Reese, hosted a testimonial dinner for Reese at the Brevoort Hotel in New York. Many prominent literary figures of the day attended, including DuBose Heyward, Edwin Markham, Carl Van Doren, Elinor Wylie, William Rose Benét, and Robert Frost. Other honors followed: In 1931, Reese received the Shelley Memorial Award for achievement in poetry; in the same year, an honorary doctor of letters degree from Goucher College; and in 1934, designation as National Honor Poet of Poetry Week.

Ultimately, Reese’s place in American literary history may depend...

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

Gray, Janet, ed. She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997. Collection of essays on women poets of nineteenth century America contains a biographical essay on Reese.

Harris, R. P. “April Weather: The Poetry of Lizette Woodworth Reese.” South Atlantic Quarterly 29 (April, 1930): 200-207. This essay, appearing before Reese died in 1935, is an early and valuable recognition of her place in American lyric poetry. Surveying her career, Harris shows that, even during the period that Edmund Clarence Stedman called “a twilight interval” (1890-1910), Reese was publishing the “clear, natural lyrics” that anticipated the later works of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Sara Teasdale.

Hill, Phyllis. Who Will Sing My Songs? Hagerstown, Md.: Freline, 1988. As a “dialogue” between the author of the book and Reese, the text will appeal primarily to young readers who seek an introduction to her philosophy of life and her poetry. Contains some photographs of Reese, a brief bibliography, and a selection of her poems.

Kindilien, Carlin T. “The Village World of Lizette Woodworth Reese.” South Atlantic Quarterly 56 (January, 1957): 91-104. This essay begins with a biographical sketch of Reese, but then quite perceptively analyzes the distinguishing characteristics of her poetry: its simplicity of diction and imagery, its embrace of the natural world, and its spiritual aesthetic. Concludes with a pertinent comparison of Reese and Emily Dickinson.

Knight, Denise D. “Lizette Woodworth Reese.” In Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers, edited by Denise D. Knight and Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. A biographical sketch of Reese with a bibliography.

Morris, Lawrence S. “Some Flowers Down a Lane.” The New Republic 48 (August 25, 1926): 23-24. A brief but sensitive review of The Selected Poems of Lizette Woodworth Reese, this essay touches on the characteristic themes and beauties of Reese’s verse, particularly her fascination with mood, memory, and grief.

Rhode, Robert D. “Lizette W. Reese: ’Fair White Gospeler.’” Personalist 31 (1950): 390-398. Using Reese as an example of the teacher-poet, Rhode illustrates how she writes within, but ultimately transcends, the didactic nature of the genteel tradition. Rhode acutely analyzes Reese’s choice of “white” and “April” as symbolically important words that help her escape “the excesses of narcissistic romanticism on one hand, and of ethical nihilism on the other.”

Scholnick, Robert J. “Lizette Woodworth Reese.” Legacy 15, no. 2 (1998): 213-221. A short but helpful biographical study of Reese and her work.