Book Essay - Summer 2022

She Was the Toast of the World

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The dramas and diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay

By Sandra M. Gilbert | June 1, 2022
At a time when modernism was leaning away from both love poetry and the verse form, Millay wrote some of her best sonnets. (Wikimedia Commons)
At a time when modernism was leaning away from both love poetry and the verse form, Millay wrote some of her best sonnets. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pretty, petite, and polyamorous, Edna St. Vincent Millay was the “it girl” of American poetry in the Roaring Twenties. Like many other adolescent literary aspirants, I read her work—especially her sonnets—with wonder and adoration in the not-so-fiery late ’40s and early ’50s. I’m not sure that I knew she was still alive in 1949, and I don’t remember hearing of her death in 1950. No, she was a dream poet, glamorous, eloquent, always alive, and always in love. My friends and I memorized her lines, such as,

Oh, sleep forever in the Latmian cave

Mortal Endymion, darling of the Moon!

And,

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!

Give back my book and take my kiss instead. …

Some sane day, not so bright and not so stormy,

I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

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