Synopses & Reviews
Praised by poets and critics ranging from A. E. Housman and Thomas Hardy to Edmund Wilson, Edna St. Vincent Millay's bold, exquisite poems take their place among the enduring verse of the twentieth century. Claiming a lyric tradition stretching back to Sappho and Catullus and making it very much her own, Millay won over her contemporaries and readers ever since with her passion, erotic candor, formal elegance, and often mischievous wit.
J. D. McClatchy's introduction and selection offer new and surprising insights into Millay's achievement. Included are her most beloved and justly admired poems, such as the wry bohemian anthem "Recuerdo" and the sonnet sequence Fatal Interview, the poetic record of a love affair that is presented in its entirety. McClatchy has also chosen works that extend our sense of Millay's range: translations, her play Aria da Capo, and excepts from her libretto The King's Henchman. "I have for the most part been guided by my taste for Millay at her tautest and truest," writes McClatchy. "There are precise and resonant images everywhere."
"There are some who delight and inform. It's so much better, you see, for me, when a writer like Edna St. Vincent Millay speaks so deeply about her concern for herself, and does not offer us any altruisms. Then when I look through her eyes at how she sees a black or an Asian my heart is lightened." Maya Angelou
"She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." Richard Eberhart
"I know that Millay is a good poet because there are so many of her lines in my memory. She belonged to a generation which thought of poetry as song; when that notion revives, as it will, the great appeal of her work will be felt again." Richard Wilbur
"One of the only poets writing in English in our time who have attained anything like the stature of great literary figures." Edmund Wilson
A lively selection by J. D. McClatchy, the distinguished poet, critic, and editor, casts Millay's career in a new light. Here are familiar favorites alongside neglected gems: translations, a verse play, songs from her opera libretto The King's Henchman, and the complete sonnet sequence Fatal Interview.
About the Author
Edna St. Vincent Millay
was born in 1892 in Rockland, Maine, and grew up in the seaside town of Camden. She published her first poems as a teenager and, at twenty, her long poem “Renascence” appeared in the anthology The Lyric Year
. At Vassar, she developed her talents and reputation as a dramatist and actor. After graduating in 1917, Millay moved to Greenwich Village in New York City where she gave poetry readings and became known for her freedom of thought and feminist views. She acted and wrote for the Provincetown Players theater group and in 1919 directed a production of her play Aria da Capo
. Her poetry was published in several magazines, including Vanity Fair
, and Forum
. Her first book, Renascence and Other Poems
(1917), was followed in 1920 by A Few Figs from Thistles
(an expanded edition appeared in 1922) and in 1921 by Second April
In 1923, upon her return from two years of writing and traveling in Europe, Millay received the second annual Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and published a new collection, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems. That same year she married Eugen Boissevain, and in 1925 they moved to a farm in upstate New York. Millay published five more collections of poetry: The Buck in the Snow (1928), Fatal Interview (1931), Wine from These Grapes (1934), Huntsman, What Quarry? (1939), Make Bright the Arrows (1940); a prose collection under her pen name, Nancy Boyd, titled Distressing Dialogues (1924; its foreword carried Millay’s byline); a translation, with George Dillon, of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil (1936); the verse dramas Conversation at Midnight (1937) and The Murder of Lidice (1942); and several plays. Her final book was the posthumously published Mine the Harvest (1954), edited by her younger sister Norma. Edna St. Vincent Millay died in 1950.