Quote Of The Day

Quote Of The Day #42

I read this author’s “The Loyal Son” about Ben Franklin and his son, and really like it. I have to say our local grocery store really has nice biographies and nice WWII books. Anyway, I went online to see if the same author wrote other biographies and found this one about Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. So I immediately ordered it from Betterworldbooks.com. Several days later, it arrived, together with several children’s drawings. How cute.

The author said in the preface that he had the chance to access a big pile of Millay’s diary, letters, and other material. And he did a wonderful job of connecting what’s in the diary to what’s in her poem.

On the third page of the preface, it says, “Cultures are distinguished and measured, and nations are characterized by their love poems.” I just love this quote. I wish all those boring high school history classes could be about poems, or even better love poems.

Millay was born the eldest of three sisters to a very poor family. After her parents divorced, she and her siblings and her mother almost became homeless if it were not for the kindness of relatives and friends.

After that early trauma (being poor and ill), life proved to be one struggle after another, yet the women survived with stubborn determination and a kind of desperate humor.

And then the author related this life experience with Millay’s poem “Renascence”–

“My anguished spirit… suffered death, but could not die.”

Vincent ( the poet likes to call herself Vincent rather than Edna) was enormously popular with the high school girls, but much less so with the boys who found her haughty. One, Raymond Tibbets (class of 1907), recalled, “I remember Vincent as a scrawny girl–not nearly so attractive as her pretty sister, Norma–and too smart for most of us. She hadn’t learned, as many brilliant women do, to conceal her superior gifts from young male clods.”

And then the author related this fact with her poem about yearning for romance. It is so delightful to read. I guess it is because the boys didn’t like her, which made her a poet, who could only vent her feelings in her writing.

And Vincent wrote in her diary about her imaginary lover, “Sometimes I think that I have experienced every emotion, that is, the emotions I have not physically felt I have imagined so vividly as to make them real to me. And what life I have lived I have lived doubly, actually and symbolically.”

And the following line,

The room is full of you! As I came in
And closed the door behind me, all at once
A something in the air, intangible, 
Yet still with meaning, struck my senses sick!

Ella Somerville, witty and funny, delighted in poetry and dancing and certain boys, but she never loved anything on this earth as much as the red-haired poet. She fell madly in love with Vincent Millay, in ways that Vincent found altogether welcome.

Unfortunately the author didn’t follow this description with a poem from Millay. However I can certainly recall that Millay did write poems about women’s friendship and love for each other.

What a delightful book. I am still reading it.

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