Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Though I had read (and thoroughly enjoyed) the sonnet "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" before,  I knew little about the author Edna St. Vincent Millay.   Mr. Searles' presentation was incredibly intriguing.  I thought it was amazing and in fact commendable that Millay was openly bisexual and sexually active in the era she lived in.  Even today, sexual minorities and people who openly enjoy having a lot of sex are looked down upon and made to feel "dirty" or inferior.  if these are attitudes that are present today I can only imagine how she was viewed almost a century earlier.

I think the beauty in Edna's poems stem from their simplicity and (for most) their ability to be relatable.  Her poems are not based and do not rely on grandiose language or convoluted metaphors to get across her views on love, society, or nature.  Her entire audience was able to grasp what exactly she is trying to say without having to read into it too deeply.   Of the poems we read,  The Penitent and Love is Not All were certainly my favorites.  Both rested on a sense of irony.  In The Penitent the title implies that she feels sorry for the "sins" she's committed, but in fact the poem shows us that she is unable to feel regret over he actions but instead has decided that she "might as well be glad!"  It's clear in the poem, that Edna has no qualms about the life she lives and does not feel that she has to be ashamed of it.  Love is Not All shows a different type of irony where she conveys to the reader that love is not a basic necessity like food or shelter or air but in the end she is still believes it to be "all" and cannot imagine living without it.

Millay most reminds me of someone like Amber Rose.  Amber Rose is a celebrity most widely known for being unabashedly, in her words, a "slut". She has made her persona based off flouting societal norms and being comfortable in her sexuality.   She does not define herself as any sexuality but rather just "open", similar to Millay.  Amber Rose is certainly not all that similar to Millay but in terms of their attitude towards sexuality and the societal expectations that come with it, they certainly do share a similar stance.

Edna St. Vincent Millay made me aware that women of the 19th/20th century were not all super conservative and traditional -- a direct contrast to my pre-conceived notions.  She was outspoken, cheeky and an incredibly well written woman.  Searles' lecture definitely piqued my interest in regards to her and I definitely want to learn more.

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