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Happy {belated} birthday Edna St Vincent Millay

Edna St Vincent Millay, photo: Arnold Genthe

Edna St Vincent Millay, photo: Arnold Genthe

Oh dear, I missed your birthday this year – only by five days, but still, I’m sorry. Here I am now, thinking of you.

Edna St Vincent Millay was a poet and playwright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, a feminist, free spirit, and my great-grandfather’s cousin. She loved freely, managed to have a marriage where she was the breadwinner and her husband took care of the house, and treated her migraines with copious amounts of morphine. I enjoyed [amazon_link id=”B000Q67J16″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty[/amazon_link], the story of Millay’s fascinating life, immensely.

Last year, I posted the first poem of hers I ever read, and still my favourite. It feels so appropriate as it captures the hints of spring that sneaks into the air around this time of year.

Second April

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Photo: Arnold Genthe
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