Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Mr. Searles's presentation about Edna St. Vincent Millay really opened my eyes as to how different sexuality and love was viewed back in her time versus now. Now, if someone comes out as bisexual, most people have no problem with it and it's becoming more normal to accept people for who they are and who they're attracted to. In Edna St. Vincent Millay's time, not many people were coming out as bisexual and not many people accepted bisexuality, so I admire her for being able to accept who she was and for being open about it, regardless of what other people thought. I imagine that a small town like Camden, Maine must have been an oppressive environment for her to grow up in. People in small towns tend to all have very similar ideologies and beliefs, and they tend to be more conservative, so many people were probably not accepting of Edna's bisexuality.

Despite her father leaving the family and being unsupportive after her parents' divorce, Edna became successful. She attended Vassar College, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923, and was awarded the Frost Medal for poetry in 1943. She wrote poems all throughout her life and was best known for her sonnets. Her sonnet, "What Lips my Lips Have Kissed", provides insight into her ideas and thoughts about love. She says, "And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain / For unremembered lads that not again / Will turn to me at midnight with a cry." She's saying that the "unremembered lads" are unremembered because who they are does not matter; what matters to her is the feeling of love they provided her with. She also says, "What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, I have forgotten...", which is saying, again, that it doesn't matter who a person loves, it only matters that they feel loved and were able to love. This ideology of hers, that it doesn't matter who a person loves as long as they are loved shows through in her personal life. She married Eugen Van Boissevian in 1923, and they were married for 26 years. All throughout those 26 years, they had an open relationship and knew about the love affairs each had with other people. This reflects her thoughts about love because she is being loved by people other than her husband, and he by people other than her, but it does not matter because they are both loving and being loved.

I think that Edna St. Vincent Millay was able to do what many people in her time, and even today, couldn't do. She accepted herself for who she was and she expressed her views, even though they went against the norms of society. Compared to the vast majority of society in the early 1900's, our society today is much more liberal and accepting in terms of sexuality and openly talking about sex. However, most people still can't understand a polygamous or open relationship. Considering how liberal our society is now compared to then, and how far we've progressed socially, many people are still not able to accept themselves or others and are scared to voice their opinions for fear of social backlash. I think Edna St. Vincent Millay is a good example for all young people to be accepting of themselves and others and to speak their minds and let their opinions be known.

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