Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Poetry - Edna St Vincent Millay

Edna St Vincent Millay is a poet I don't know very much about. I've read her poems in anthologies & always thought I should know more about her. So, when I saw a Dover edition of her poetry for about $3 at Clouston & Hall's website, I decided the time had come to investigate further.

Millay was a poet from childhood, writing her first poem at the age of 5. This edition is a collection of her first three volumes of poetry, the first, Renascence and other poems, published when she was just 25. The title poem of that collection is wonderful, with echoes of Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson & Andrew Marvell. It's too long to post but you can read it here. Many of the poems are about lost love, often about how difficult it is for the speaker to carry on without the loved one. They're grounded in the everyday, the domestic, which I love. In another poem, Interim, the speaker looks at the book left open on a table, the last words written by the beloved, remembers the first sweet pea of the season brought in from the garden, "'Twas much like any other flower to me, / Save that it was the first. I did not know / Then, that it was the last." I feel that I've discovered a new poet & want to read everything I can get my hands on. There's a biography by Nancy Milford, who wrote a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald that I read & enjoyed many years ago & I must buy some more of the poetry. Anything else I should read? Any recommendations from the Millay fans out there?

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
      Eat I must, and sleep I will, — and would that night were here!
But ah! — to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
      Would that it were day again! — with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
      This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, —
      There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me, — and the neighbors knock and borrow,
      And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, —
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
      There's this little street and this little house.


  1. I'm always startled by coincidences. Jack and I just got back from a week in Camden, ME, where I discovered a few places related to Edna St. Vincent Millay. Where she'd gone to Sunday school, to school, etc. No house museum as far as I could see. I get back to Philadelphia and read your post, and there she is!

    1. Serendipity indeed! She spent many years in Greenwich Village & then bought a farm near Austerlitz, NY, with her husband where she spent the last 25 years of her life. I do want to know more about her life.

  2. I like Edna St Vincent Millay very much, but I've only come across her work in anthologies, and know very little about her. There does seem to be an air of sadness in her poems, the sadness of love lost, and lost youth and the passing of time, and yet however she may feel she accepts that life must go on. One of my favourites is the poem that starts 'What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why'.

    1. I know that poem but, like you, I've only come across her in anthologies. It's lovely to discover a new poet.