Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I was really curious about Edna St. Vincent Millay because she's mentioned in this book I have: BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN. A friend and contemporary of Dorothy Parker (the OG 'bad b*tch'), she's portrayed as fiercely and fearlessly intellectual in the book, with a tongue as sharp as an adamantium blade.

I'm very particular about what kinds of poetry I like and do not like. Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and John Donne are my three favorites, and I hold everything I read up to them.

Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems are emotionally wrenching, with beautiful writing and interesting syntax, that manage to convey ideas within the parameters of her chosen meters without coming across as too twee or contrived. Her motifs of choice seem to be nature and lost love, and her use of evocative imagery to drive her points home really are brilliant.

Her famous poem is probably "The Harp Weaver", but I liked “Never May the Fruit Be Plucked” and "The Spring and the Fall" best. One is about love being this elusive thing, comparing being heart-sick to having a dearth of love when the rest of the world is oversaturated with it. The other compares the beginning and the end of a relationship to the seasons of spring and fall. Her sonnets are also good, but I like sonnets and not everyone does.

I will say that her poems do feel a tad more "amateur" than most published poets, in the sense that her ideas do not always feel "polished" and that she sometimes subscribes to more Hallmarkian sentiments. But in a way, this works in her favor - it makes her poems more accessible. Young people - especially young women - will get a lot out of her work, I think. She captures those adolescent pangs of despair and angst and loneliness quite well.

A hip-hip-hooray for St. Vincent Millay!

3 out of 5 stars.

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