Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems
When did I first read it?
Two years ago.
Why did I first read it?
Growing up, we had a poetry anthology that I loved called “A Child’s Anthology of Poetry.” It had Millay’s short poem “First Fig” in it, and even when I was fairly young, that poem drew me with its devil-may-care attitude. So when I saw a Millay anthology on sale at the bookstore, I picked it up.
What did I think about it then?
As is the case with me and most poetry anthologies of a single poet’s work, Millay’s poetry was a bit hit or miss for me. But those poems that I liked—which was a fair number of them—I adored. She writes quite a bit about all the different ways love is lost, and those are the poems of hers that tended to click most with me. Her poems about nature and what not . . . not so much. But I just loved how spot on she is about so many emotions and how well she conveys a variety of tones, from regretful to reflective to defiant and beyond.
What do I think about it now?
I pick up my Millay anthology fairly frequently to reread a poem or two that have been on my mind. Does that happen to anyone else?—getting poetry stuck in your head? “First Fig,” the poem that initially got me started on Millay, gets in my head fairly often, as does one of her unnamed poems (a sonnet, I think?) from her collection, “The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems.” I’ll copy them here so you can get a taste of what Millay’s poems are like:
My candle burns at both ends;And her untitled one:
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.
I, being born a woman and distressedHave you read anything by Millay? What did you think?
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn wtih pity,—let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.