This article offers a reading of the poetry of the seventeenth-century royalist Hester Pulter. Focusing on the question of how best to respond to Pulter's poems, the article takes up the matter of ‘reading as’, explicitly acknowledging the role of gender in and as reading. I suggest that a concern with aisthesis makes possible an engagement that makes apparent reading processes rather than simply producing more readings. Noting the possibility of accounting for Pulter's poetry through an attention to the ways in which some poems establish a distance between her own position and that of a conventional male tradition, I propose that other poems resist this impression in their division of a ‘female’ position in terms of political subjectivity and class. Drawing on debates about the role of theory in early modern studies that are exemplified in the relation of historicism to presentism, I call for a recognition of the singularity of literature that will keep in play the multiple identifications that Pulter's poetry both enacts and demands from its readers.