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December 26, 2009


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Mitch Sisskind, what are you doing out there in LA? Tsk, tsk. :)

Thanks for the breaking news Mitch. Nice detective work!

vincent seems to have been a real firecracker, as they said in her day. i know she and emily d are causing problems in poet's heaven. emily has started smoking cigarettes.

Do you suppose ESVM took her ivory dildo with her?

she may have taken it or could always purchase a new one at the heavenly toy store. i'm certain emily had one also -- probably not archived in widener library with her other belongings. ("Your old snood mothballed at harvard...." -- adrienne rich)

The Millay comeback is well under way. The absence of her poems from Richard Ellmann's "New Oxford Book of American Verse" (1976) reflects the condescension of the academic critics, who held her sexual libertarianism against her. She also committed the even less pardonable sin of becoming a famous and successful poet early in her career. To make matters worse there was, at the time, a rebellion against the sonnet and its modern practitioners. Well, the form has survived that prejudice, and the idea that girls have sex drives and women can write poetry has taken hold. Millay's sonnets are beautifully made and are as fresh and compelling in their content as when she wrote them. You can read her sonnets as a sequence chronicling her erotic autobiography -- less graphically than, say, Anais Nin but with more passion. Millay is represented with four sonnets and two other poems in the current "Oxford Book of American Poetry" (2006). I'd have included three or four others, had space allowed.

Yes, David Lehman's selections in the Oxford anthology are brilliant.

I wonder if all this had something to do with her falling down the stairs and breaking her neck.

(Mitch - I think you're right about Emily D., too.)

Seriously, I agree with DL that ESVM's reputation has suffered from a combination of chauvinism and sour grapes. I think the fact she was beautiful didn't help with the critics, either.

i agree with david too. her best poems were her sonnets and i guess there was a modernist reaction against traditional forms. also there seems to have been a time when she was really a popular success and then maybe that worked against her long term. well, it's all a big mess.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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