Edna St Vincent Millay

The Early Poetry Of Edna St Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maryland on February 22nd 1892. Whilst still a child her parents had separated and finally divorced in 1904. Edna and her two sisters and mother Cora found times hard and apart from a trunk full of classic literature were living in poverty. However they were able to settle in a small house on her Mother's Aunt's property in Camden in Maine. It was here that Edna (who had a fondness to call herself Vincent) was to begin writing poetry. Despite her rebellious attitude she was published frequently in the school's literary magazine, The Megunticook. At 14 she won the St. Nicholas Gold Badge for poetry, and at 15 she had published in the popular children's magazine St. Nicholas, the Camden Herald, and the high-profile anthology Current Literature. While still at school Edna had several relationships with women as she came to terms with the woman and the artist she was becoming. Edna's fame began in 1912 when she entered her poem "e;Renascence"e; in a poetry contest in The Lyric Year. The poem was considered the best submission but awarded fourth place, the resulting publicity being somewhat of a scandal. In the immediate aftermath of the controversy, Caroline B. Dow heard Edna reciting her poetry and playing the piano and was so impressed she paid for her education at Vassar College. Edna moved to Greenwich Village in New York after her graduation in 1917. Living in Greenwich Village Edna described her life in New York as "e;very, very poor and very, very merry."e; Openly bisexual, marriage was proposed by various suitors but rejected. Her 1920 collection A Few Figs From Thistles was controversial for its exploration of female sexuality and feminism. In 1919 she wrote the anti-war play Aria da Capo which starred her sister Norma Millay. At the age of only 31 Edna won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 for "e;The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver"e;; she was the third woman to win the poetry prize. In 1923 she married Eugen Jan Boissevain. A self-proclaimed feminist, Boissevain supported her career and took primary care of domestic responsibilities. Both Edna and Boissevain had many other lovers during their twenty-six-year marriage. In 1925, Boissevain and Edna bought Steepletop near Austerlitz, New York, which had been a 635-acre blueberry farm. The couple soon added a barn (from a Sears Roebuck kit), a writing cabin and a tennis court. The couple later bought Ragged Island in Casco Bay, Maine, as a summer retreat. Edna's reputation was damaged by the poetry she wrote about the Allied war effort during World War II. Merle Rubin noted: "e;She seems to have caught more flak from the literary critics for supporting democracy than Ezra Pound did for championing fascism."e; In 1943 Millay was the sixth person and the second woman to be awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. Boissevain died in 1949 of lung cancer, and Edna lived alone for the last year of her life. Edna died at her home on October 19, 1950. She had fallen down stairs and was found some eight hours after her death. Her physician reported that she had had a heart attack following a coronary occlusion. She was 58 years old.
63 printed pages

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