Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I found Mr. Searles presentation about Edna St. Vincent Millay very interesting for a few reasons. She was a very complex person, which is reflected in her poems. Millay was very promiscuous, and she often wrote about sex and love, two things not often talked or written about at the time. One of the most impressive parts of Millay was her willingness to be open about herself. She was bisexual, and seemingly not ashamed by it at a time where it was not widely accepted. Additionally, she had an open relationship with her husband, showing how truly she was a free spirit. She was willing to write about her life, and about how sex impacted her. I got the impression that she was very progressive, and far ahead of her time.
I also found her whole life story and how it was reflected in her poems to be very interesting. Most of her poems celebrated her life, especially “The Penitent.” In it she discusses how she is ‘supposed’ to feel guilty for what she has done, but does not. This guilt she was supposed to have could have been over many things in her life such as her sexuality, her open relationship with her husband, or even her writing. Millay ends the poem saying that she “might as well be glad!” This defiance is evident in Millay’s life, her unwillingness to follow expectations about her sexuality, and her relationships. Millay shows very little regret for living her life as she did, the only indication coming up in her poem “What My Lips Have Kissed.” Throughout the poem she talks about how meaningless the names and faces of her lovers were, but that the feeling of love and lust was very important and meaningful to her. At the end of the poem she writes “I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more.” This line shows that she has lost that love that she once had, and the tone shifts to be far more serious and sad than it was in the rest of the poem.
My perception was that Millay was happy with as many lovers as she had, and breaking the stereotype of the perfect, monogamous wife. Having many partners is often looked down upon, and people try to find reasons to justify this ‘abnormal’ behavior. This got me to thinking about how culture today is still not particularly accepting to open relationships and bisexuality. Open relationships aren’t very common in America, and the women in them are often slut-shamed. This disapproval must have been far more pronounced when Millay was alive. Similarly, it must have been very difficult to be bisexual in the 20’s. Today, homosexuality for the most part is accepted in America, and it is often more accepted than bisexuality. Millay is very impressive to me because she was able to break down so many stereotypes and expectations without remorse or regret.

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