Monthly Archives: March 2011

Best poet of all, back in the day? Prize goes to Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay among the blossoms

There it was on a book shelf, SAVAGE BEAUTY, The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford. So I bought it right away and took it home for a mid-winter reading project. I’ve had no reason since to regret it.

Milford makes a creditable investigative run at one of America’s premier poets. She fills her book with juicy Millay details gleaned from reading the poet’s personal letters,

Youthful Edna

plus interviewing a surviving sister. One awesome revelation:  Edna’s parents gave her that prestigious middle name because they admired Maine’s St. Vincent Hospital.

In this debased era – when poetry is relegated to the domain of rock musical lyrics and advertising blank verse – one is more likely to encounter an honest politician strolling the boulevards than a real poet.

But there was a time in this country, during a frenetic Jazz Age, when these charming versifiers proliferated. National poetry magazines printed their stanzas, while newspapers routinely reported the results of their contests and interviewed their traveling lecturers. Even some radio stations held weekly poetry readings which attracted wide audiences. And among the bards writing during the third decade of the 20th century, one stood highest in public acclaim. Continue reading

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