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Selected Poems (Perennial Classics) Paperback – March 3, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." -- -- Richard Eberhart

"I know that Millay is a good poet because there are so many of her lines in my memory. She belonged to a generation which thought of poetry as song; when that notion revives, as it will, the great appeal of her work will be felt again." -- Richard Wilbur

"One of the only poets writing in English in our time who have attained anything like the stature of great literary figures." -- Edmund Wilson

"She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." -- Richard Eberhart

"There are some who delight and inform. It's so much better, you see, for me, when a writer like Edna St. Vincent Millay speaks so deeply about her concern for herself, and does not offer us any altruisms. Then when I look through her eyes at how she sees a black or an Asian my heart is lightened." -- Maya Angelou

About the Author

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in 1892 in Rockland, Maine, the eldest of three daughters, and was encouraged by her mother to develop her talents for music and poetry. Her long poem "Renascence" won critical attention in an anthology contest in 1912 and secured for her a patron who enabled her to go to Vassar College.

After graduating in 1917 she lived in Greenwich Village in New York for a few years, acting, writing satirical pieces for journals (usually under a pseudonym), and continuing to work at her poetry. She traveled in Europe throughout 1921-22 as a "foreign correspondent" for Vanity Fair. Her collection A Few Figs from Thistles (1920) gained her a reputation for hedonistic wit and cynicism, but her other collections (including the earlier Renascence and Other Poems [1917]) are without exception more seriously passionate or reflective.

In 1923 she married Eugene Boissevain and -- after further travel -- embarked on a series of reading tours which helped to consolidate her nationwide renown. From 1925 onwards she lived at Steepletop, a farmstead in Austerlitz, New York, where her husband protected her from all responsibilities except her creative work. Often involved in feminist or political causes (including the Sacco-Vanzetti case of 1927), she turned to writing anti-fascist propaganda poetry in 1940 and further damaged a reputation already in decline. In her last years of her life she became more withdrawn and isolated, and her health, which had never been robust, became increasingly poor.

She died in 1950.

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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (March 3, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006093168X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060931681
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,263,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Walker E. Rowe III on September 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
The introduction to this collection of poetry says that Edna St. Vincent Millay has been criticized for not being sufficiently "modernist". He poems are too sentimental, too easy-to-read, and borrow too much from 18th century styles. Well the critics might be right but I love this poetry and plan to read more.
Her most famous lines are here "My candle burns at both ends...it gives a lovely light", her first famous poem is here "Renascance"--this spooky poem gained her a mentor and an education at Vassar--and also present are poems from "Fatal Interview" and "Epitath for the Race of Man". My favorite poems are the short ones that talk of love: these are the easy-to-read poems dismissed by the critics.
If you read this poem then you must read the potrait of Edna St. Vincent Millay in "The New Yorker" and the memoir "The Shores of Light" by Edmund Wilson, the later book reviewer for The New Yorker magazine.
Edmun Wilson was just one of ESVM many jilted suitors. But she let him down gently her said. His book describes how he found work for her at Vanity Fair magazine. ESVM evidently charmed all the men she came in touch with. The editor of Vanity Fair complained that he could not have both of his editors in love with the same contributor to the magazine.
Many of the ESVM poems here have to do with nature, like the poem "Spring". Perhaps this is because she moved out of Greenwich Village to the country and there she wrote collections such as "The Buck in Snow". When she got married and left the city she didn't lose touch with her circle of fans and hangers-on including Edmun Wilson.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have just finished this, my first reading of Millay's poetry and I must say I enjoyed it. This anthology makes me want to read more, not less. Her poems convince me that a biography of her life would probably be a worthwhile read also. The escape she is longing for and never quite leaps into, her obvious disdain for anything artificial or constrained combined with her love and respect for the naturally occurring (freedom)... these are dominant themes. And everywhere, TREES and other growing things! It is amazing how often the trees, fruit, grain, the forest, orchards, mushrooms, moss and even weeds are the things which Millay uses to convey her philosophical reflections. In my opinion, her finest poem (Renascence) written when she was 19 reveals early on this connection she felt between revealed nature and transcendence. "God, I can push the grass apart/And lay my finger on Thy heart!"
Colin Falck, in the Introduction comments that Millay was under-appreciated by those who considered her technique too traditional, and her content lacking in intellectual complexity. Did any of these critics read her sonnets I wonder? I agree with Falck's conclusion that "it is time we found a proper place for this intense, thoughtful, and magnificently literate poet." To the merciless critics I would send Millay's own words... "Cruel of heart, lay down my song./Your reading eyes have done me wrong./Not for you was the pen bitten,/And the mind wrung, and the song written."
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3 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Phoebe Clue on May 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Millay's poetry are so touching and inspiring to the soul. You can't experience poetry until you read "Rennaisance", and so many of her other poems that give you such a love for the human body and the nature around us. R.A.E.
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