Almost a hundred years ago, Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the best-known women in America and certainly the best known female poet. Though she's been unfashionable for many years, I predict a comeback -- for reasons explained below. Anyway, true talent is never a matter of fashion for those who strictly meditate the thankless muse. Certainly that included Papa Hemingway, who said of Vincent (as ESVM liked to be called), "She could hit them with the bases loaded":
Tenderly, in those times, as though she fed
An ailing child -- with sturdy propping up
Of its small, feverish body in the bed,
And steadying of its hands about the cup --
She gave her husband of her body's strength,
Thinking of men, what helpless things they were,
Until he turned and fell asleep at length,
And stealthily stirred the night and spoke to her.
Familiar, at such moments, like a friend,
Whistled far off the long, mysterious train,
And she could see in her mind's vision plain
The magic World, where cities stood on end...
Remote from where she lay -- and yet -- between,
Save for something asleep beside her, only the window screen.
In 1920 Vincent began her love affair with young Edmund Wilson, whose books Memoirs of Hecate County and To the Finland Station are sexual allegories of this torrid and inflaming time. "Bunny" and Vincent used to amuse themselves by shooting nude figure studies of the poet, of which some excellent prints still exist. The pictures are now in the possession of the Library of Congress, but are under an embargo...until 2010. Yes, that's why I predict the start of an ESVM revival beginning as soon as next week!
But as a reader of the Best American Poetry blog, you don't have to wait until next week. Through my contacts in the government, I've been able to obtain a few of "Bunny's" quite excellent photographs. I submit them here to your connoisseurship, including the brief notes that "Bunny" scribbled on the backs ---->>>>
Here's a link to a good article about Vincent, including mention of the photographs and shared optimism for revival of interest: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200110/mallon