In addition to having written stunning sonnet sequences about turbulent love from the perspective of a woman, Millay concerned herself with writing about patriarchal oppression, the experience of poverty, suicide, the aging female body, urban life, and more; the range of Millay’s talent extended far beyond the neat poems about nature that helped earn the poet her first taste of fame.
Often, Millay’s intense attention to form allowed her to frame difficult or painful subject matter in familiar and accessible terms.
Her wellwrought poetry is a testament to the fact that aesthetic tendencies by themselves don’t have fixed social values.
Collected Poems Edna St.
Before the cock in the barnyard spoke,
Before it well was day,
Horror like a serpent from about the Hangman’s Oak
Uncoiled and slid away.
Pity and Peace were on the limb
That bore such bitter fruit.
Deep he lies, and the desperate blood of him
Befriends the innocent root.
Brother, I said to the air beneath the bough
Whence he had swung,
It will not be long for any of us now;
We do not grow young.
It will not be long for the knotter of ropes, not long
For the sheriff or for me,
Or for any of them that came five hundred strong
To see you swing from a tree.
Side by side together in the belly of Death
We sit without hope,
You, and I, and the mother that gave you breath,
And the tree, and the rope.
The Hangman’s Oak by Edna St.
Millay was an early 20th century American poet who won the Pulitzer in 1923 for the HarpWeaver, which is included in this seven hundred page collection.
Millay was a widely respected and popular poet.
Ray Bradbury is said to have read Millay’s poetry as inspiration for many of his stories.
I am guessing it was for both the meter and Millay’s poignant explorations around deathsignatures of her poetry.
I think her best poems are amongst the earliest that she wrote in her twenties, although she published late into her life.
Her early poetry is traditional and easier to interpret than others of her era.
Even her later work doesn’t have much in common with her contemporaries like T.
Eliot, Ezra Pound, and E.
Here are my favorites of the collection.
All of which I consider to be five star works.
I tend to like her more literal poems as they feel more powerful to me.
Afternoon on a Hill
Kin to Sorrow
When the Year Grows Old
Elegy Before Death
The HarpWeaver (one of Johnny Cash’s favorites)
A Visit to the Asylum
Memory of Cassis
Dream of Saba
Some Things are Dark
Sonnet III from an Ungrafted Tree
To Jesus on His Birthday
Sonnet XIV from Fatal Interview
5 stars What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
What I know about poetry could fit on the head of a pin, so this is not intended as any kind of learned review.
The fact I know so little about poetry but still chose to read this book (yes, from cover to cover), however, is a testament to the poet.
I had read a handful of her sonnets a few years ago, and one in particular haunted me and has never lost its grip on me.
I think it's safe to say that it may be my favorite poem ever.
So it was because of this poem that I chose to read Edna St.
Vincent Millay's entire collected worksand I am so glad that I did.
I have been toying with reading a biography of Millay, but in a way, I hardly need to now.
Reading COLLECTED POEMS: EDNA ST.
VINCENT MILLAY was like reading the poet's own memoirs.
From the opening lines, I was engrossed in her world and learned so much about her, especially about her love and yearning for nature, her brief as well as her enduring affairs of the heart, her conflicted religious views, her abhorrence for the wastefulness of war, her passion for life, and her equal and opposite preoccupation with death.
Of course, in reading a book of poems, I should have been prepared for it to evoke and challenge my own emotions, but I was not quite prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride I would go on, starting from the very opening lines.
I ran the whole gamut from laughter to contemplating my own mortalityall within the first few dozen pages.
Being ignorant, as I said, I am not qualified to comment much on poetic form, but it seems to me that this body of work covers almost every form imaginable, from simple rhymes to the freest of free verse.
There is a certain musicality throughout, however, and many of the poems, especially those from publications preceding THE BUCK IN THE SNOW have the feeling of old folk tunes.
The poems following this section of the COLLECTED POEMS tend to be longer, freer in form, and graver in content.
It is for her sonnets that Millay is most famous, however, because she adopted this very traditional form to express ideas that were often far from traditional.
The COLLECTED POEMS recognizes this by grouping the sonnets in their own section at the end of the book.
Most of the sonnets are not named (their first line therefore being used in place of a name), but a few are, and the sonnet "Bluebeard" is probably my second favorite of Millay's works.
But what was the sonnet that introduced me to Edna St.
Vincent Millay those several years ago, and remains my favorite to this day? It is known as "Once more into my arid days like dew":
Once more into my arid days like dew,
Like wind from an oasis, or the sound
Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,
A treacherous messenger, the thought of you
Comes to destroy me; once more I renew
Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found
Long since to be but just one other mound
Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.
And once again, and wiser in no wise,
I chase your colored phantom on the air,
And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise
And stumble pitifully on to where,
Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,
Once more I clasp,and there is nothing there.
Vincent Millay, COLLECTED POEMS: EDNA ST.
VINCENT MILLAY, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York, 2011, p.
Vincent Millay may be the most underrated poet in the English language.
Was she a formalist, and therefore out of vogue? Too bad.
Was she a naughty girl, and therefore sent to a place less than nice when she died? More power to her; I'm sure she felt right at home.
The woman who, as an undergrad at Vassar, defied the president of the college to expel her and was told "What? "And have a banished Shelley on my doorstep?"and who then allegedly responded "On those terms, I think I can continue to live in this hell hole"was obviously not someone to be trifled with.
Cheeky? No doubt.
A hellcat? She could've set the wind on firethen have doused the flames in a wink with wit alone.
Every one of the sonnets in this collection is a gift to the reader.
This book alone is worth a year's tuition at Vassarand would no doubt prove more valuable to the few who may be caught there (or at Smith, Wellesley, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, or Bryn Mawr) against their will.
It's too bad Radcliffe merged with Harvard only well after her death.
The only wonder is that she didn't rise from the grave to stop itor, instead, lead the movement to have Harvard merge with Radcliffe.
I passed by "Savage Beauty" years ago, struck by the picture of the woman on the cover.
It was a bio of poet Edna St.
I'd never heard of her, but she looked like something out of The Great Gatsby.
I decided to pick up her poetry finally, and the first one I turned to was "Renascence.
" I've adored various poets Neruda, Angelou, Noyes, but I felt this one poem more deeply than years of literature put together.
A poem's never done that to me I was shocked, tearful, joyous, frozen altogether.
The poems that strike us the most are the simple ones with spirit and fire almost too precious to be dissected in English classes.
So is the case with this one.
It's almost a blessing that being graded on Millay never happened to most people it makes the reading fresh, clandestine, like someone sneaking a first kiss behind the trees.
The Collected Poems Of Wb Yeats Yeats, WNotRetrouvez The Collected Poems Of Wb Yeats Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D OccasionCollected Poems Padgett, Ron Livres Gathering The Work Ofthan Fifty Years, Ron Padgett S Collected Poems Is The Record Of One Of The Most Dynamic Careers In Twentieth Century American Poetry Padgett S Poems Reverberate With His Reading And Friendships, From Andrew Marvell To Woody Guthrie And Kenneth Koch Wry, Insightful, And Direct, They Offer Readers The Rewards Of His Endless Curiosity And Generous SpiritThe Collected Poems Of Audre Lorde LordeNotRetrouvez The Collected Poems Of Audre Lorde Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D Occasion Collected Poems By Ted Hughes Goodreads Collected Poems Book Readreviews From The World S Largest Community For Readers All The Poems Of A Great Th Century PoetFrom The Astonishing DebuCollected Poems Of Bob Kaufman The Collected Poems Of Bob Kaufman Is The Most Comprehensive Selection Of His Verse To Date, A Volume That Contains A Lot Of Previously Uncollected Work This Book Makes A Case For Him As A Perceptive And Eccentric American original, A Man Who Seems To Have Fallen Out Of The Sky Like A Meteor The New York Times The Collected Poems Of Adam Lindsay Gordon Once Upon A Time, Out In The Deep Mallee Forest Near The Murray River There Lived Three Sisters, Aged Sixteen, Fourteen And Thirteen For As Was Comon In Those Days, Children Came In Quick Succession Their Names Being The Eldest Tess, Maggie And Rose It Was The Years Of Post Great Depression And The Second The Collected Poems By Sylvia Plath Goodreads So It Turns Out The Collected Poems Means Literally Everything Sylvia Plath EVER Wrote It S Arrangedor Less Chronologically, And When I Was About Halfway Through The Book I Was All Set To Only Give It Three Stars At Of The Way Through, It Had Gone Up To Four Stars, And By The Last Pages There Was No Way It Was Getting Anything Less Than Five While in the midst of reading this collection, I also read Savage Beauty, a bio of Millay, and that turned out to be a really good idea.
Armed with knowledge of her life, I could tell what events/people some poems were about, as well as when they were written, and it definitely added a new and intriguing dimension to my reading.
As for the experience of reading one nearly 800page collection as my sole poetry source for months, for the most part I enjoyed it.
There was a stretch of propaganda poetry that was a little tough to get throughMillay advocated for the U.
entering WWII much earlier than we actually did, and for a time devoted her poetry to trying to turn the tide in that direction.
I certainly can't argue with the sentiment, but even Millay herself thought the poetry wasn't that good.
But this was an area where having read the biography was useful; when I got to these poems I knew exactly what they were and why she had written them.
In general, though, the poetry was excellent, and it was interesting to see how her writing changed over time.
I suspect I will be trying this againreading another poet's massive collected worksbefore 2015 is out.
One does not expect to come across poetic treasures in English while randomly browsing for mindless stuff to read, at least not when browsing in a bookshop in Belgium, but I wasn't going to let this one slip by.
I've wanted to read more of her work since I read An Ancient Gesture.
So much of her poetry is haunting, and terribly moving; very glad I found this.
I love this book.
I don't read much poetry, but Edna St.
Vincent Millay is one of the best poets I've ever read.