2016 Reading List #14: Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

My name is Brenna and I’m kind of in love with Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Okay, now that my newfound love has been professed, let’s talk about how great this collection isAfter finding this book at a discount store last December, I decided to add my new gal pal to my master’s oral exam reading list, and what a great decision that was.

I randomly picked (from some of her most popular sonnets) five poems to focus on, and after reading those and doing some research on the sonnets and Millay herself, I wasn’t satisfied to put her away just yet, so I proposed to my roommate that we read the collection together.

We finished the collection in basically 24 hours over the course of three sittings. Needless to say, we couldn’t really put the book down.

I’m the first to admit that I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to poetry–I do a lot of, “oh, that’s nice” and then move promptly along–but Millay spoke to me in a new way. I actually enjoyed reading this collection immensely, which isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about poetry before, especially poets from the 20th century.

If you don’t know much about Millay herself, do yourself a favor and go learn. She’s super cool and we should all aspire to be here.

And if you still need some convincing, here are some bits that might inspire you:

  • “I drink–and live–what has destroyed some men.”
  • “I am most faithless when I am most true.”
  • “Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark, / Till I become accustomed to the dark.”
  • “I confess / I cannot swear I love you not at all.”
  • “So she came back into his house again / And watched beside his ben until he died, / Loving him not at all.”
  • “Thinking of men, what helpless things they were”
  • “Heart in my breast / ‘Tis half a year now since you broke in two; / The world’s forgotten well, if the world knew.”
  • “I dread no more the first white in my hair, / Or even age itself, the easy shoe, / The cane, the wrinkled hands, the special chair: / Time, doing this to me, may alter too / My sorrow, into something I can bear.”
  • “And lust is there, and nights not spent alone.”
  • “Yet here was one who had no need to die / To be remembered.”
  • “We could keep this planet warm / By friction, if the sun should fail.”

Here’s a list of my favorite sonnets in the collection. These are too good to just include a line or two, so go read them! 🙂

  • “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”
  • “If I should learn, in some casual way”
  • “I think I should have loved you presently”
  • “I shall forget you presently, my dear”
  • “When you, that at this moment are to me”
  • “Love is not blind. I see with single eye”
  • “Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!”
  • “I, being born a woman and distressed”
  • “What my lips have kissed, and where, and why”
  • “To Jesus on His Birthday”
  • “Women have loved before as I love now”
  • “When we are old and these rejoicing veins”
  • “Love is not all: it is not meat or drink”
  • “Time, that is pleased to lengthen out the day”
  • “Even in the moment of our earliest kiss”
  • “Now by the path I climbed, I journey back”
  • “Alcestis to her husband, just before, with his tearful approbation, she dies in order that he may live.”
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