I found Mr. Searles’s presentation and the poems we read by Edna St. Vincent Millay very interesting, because we learned how she broke down barriers as the first woman writer in the US who talked about sex and the feelings of joy that love brings to people. The overall message I took from learning about Millay is to do what makes you feel good and alive, and to not show regret for doing such things. Despite growing up very poor in Camden, Maine after her father left, Edna was able to thrive in life, attending Vassar College and earning major awards such as the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 and the Frost Medal of Poetry in 1943. Her poems focus on various themes and aspects of love and sex. For example, Love is Not All leaves us with the impression that although we do not need love to sustain us physically, we still need it to feel complete in our lives. On the other hand, The Penitent teaches us to not waste time trying to be sorry over things you do not regret, especially things that are trivial in the long run, such as the “Little Sorrow” and “Little Sin” that Millay speaks of.
One of the most impressive things to me about Edna St. Vincent Millay was her ability to accept herself for who she was. Growing up in Camden, Maine pre-WWI did not provide Millay with a very open-minded or progressive environment. However, in high school she openly embraced her bisexuality, having many relationships with both boys and girls. After WWI, while living in NYC, Millay continued to be openly bisexual, which likely became a much easier task in the changing times. Her self-acceptance reminds me a lot of Miley Cyrus. The difference is that Miley did not always accept herself for who she was. She grew up in a very religious Southern family, and because of this, she felt like her parents would not understand how she felt about her own identity. Cyrus’s transition from pre-Disney Channel to post-Disney Channel is very similar to Millay’s pre and post-WWI transition. Today, Cyrus is open about being pansexual, which is something that she was not always willing to share. To contrast, Edna knew who she was all along and was open about it, so her transition had to do with the people around her becoming more open-minded. Miley’s transition had to do with both herself and those around her learning to accept who she was. From The Penitent, we learn that there are always people who are giving advice on what we “should” do, and I think that Edna is an example of someone who always knew to do only what she felt was right, while Miley is an example of someone who learned this through experience.