Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Having recently read What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why in English class, I already knew that Edna St. Vincent Millay viewed romance and attachment through a somewhat controversial lens. I didn't know, however, that she was not only bisexual, but in an open marriage that lasted twenty-six years. Born into a pre-war world that had a conservative mindset, Millay was part of the wave that brought about the roaring twenties. After reading more of her poetry, however, it became evident that while she prioritized love in a revolutionary way, she wasn't afraid to touch upon its emotional significance either. Her poem, The Penitent, eagerly illustrates her opinion that a woman should base her choices on her own pleasure rather than society's expectations, and one of her other sonnets, Love Is Not All, compares love to essential necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter. Millay's resonating, yet sensitive verse is a perfect medium to seriously discuss her inspiring belief that love is the fuel of life, and that it should be pursued without judgement or guilt.

I find it very interesting that even now words like "slut" and "tramp" are used to describe women who chase after love, while almost a hundred years ago, in one of her most revered sonnets, What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why, Millay depicts a woman who has had multiple lovers by focusing on the love, not her reputation. In both The Penitent and Feast, Millay encourages seeking love freely, a notion that has always applied to men, but is only beginning to apply to women. And in this, I see Mr. Searles's argument that Millay never shook the world, that she never made any large, lasting impressions. She was an outstanding poet and lead an independent life, yet marriage equality was only protected recently, and women are still labeled and look down upon for their "thirst." In the twenty-first century, Millay is undoubtedly a figure that should be revived as she came to understand that love empowers women.

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