Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. VIncent Millay

Reading 005Nancy Milford

Though VIncent Millay had a rare talent and was the foremost woman poet in America, I was disappointed to read about her shallow and self-centered life. She grew up poor, her mother Cora struggling to raise the three sisters after her husband abandoned them. A wealthy benefactress noticed Vincent Millay’s talent and supported her in attending Vassar.

Fragile and tiny with red curls and pale skin, Vincent looked much younger than her years. She signaled a new age of freedom for women in expressing their emotions and sexuality.

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-

It gives a lovely light!    (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Vincent Millay took many lovers but never seemed devoted to them. She could love many people at the same time and insisted on keeping her freedom even after she married the amazingly kind Eugene Boissevain who took such good care of his “girl poet.”

The only thing that impressed me about her private life was her early awareness of Hitler’s danger and her active anti-Nazi sentiments. She also protested the conviction of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927, actively speaking with the governor to spare their lives.

Edna St Vincent Millay

I finished the book, but I didn’t feel any affinity with the poet though Thomas Hardy once said that American had 2 great attractions: skyscrapers and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I wouldn’t argue the fact but still feel that does not excuse her for her utterly selfish and indulgent life.


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