Monday, April 04, 2016

National Poetry Month: A Girl Called Vincent

27131376Goddu, Krystyna Poray. A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
April 1st 2016 by Chicago Review Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Millay, born in 1892, was a prolific letter and journal writer, and had a surprising number of pictures taken of her, even early in life, so there is plenty of information about her to fill a book. Goddu uses these resources, and even puts in a few of Millay's earlier, more naive poems as well, befitting the MG/YA audience. At 224 pages, this is a good, well-written, complete overview of an extremely influential 20th century poet. 

I was a huge Millay fan when I was 20. Saved up money to buy a first edition of one of her books, thought she was brilliant. It was surprising to me how... annoyingly precious she seems to me now. Even though her life had difficulties, she had a lot of luck with her education and writing. She had health problems, which weren't helped by some of the choices she made. I was never as fond of her political work. There was something in the publicity notes about outreach to LGBTQ and feminist outlets, but it always seemed more like Millay was caught up in the arty culture of the time. 

For a high school, I would absolutely buy this. It will be used a lot for research. I'm less sure for middle school, since the only biographies I can consistently get students to read are no more than 64 pages, and they have very little interest in poets of any kind. 

I'll have to go back and read my Collected Poems. I know there have to be more poems that speak to the disenchantment of my middle age, such as Spring


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

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