Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet, playwright and feminist.[1] She was the third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry,[2] and was known for her activism and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work. Poet Richard Wilbur asserts: "She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." [3]

Contents

Life

Early life

Millay was born in Rockland, Maine to Cora Lounella, a nurse, and Henry Tollman Millay, a schoolteacher who would later become superintendent of schools. Her middle name derives from St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, where her uncle's life had been saved just prior to her birth. The house was "between the mountains and the sea where baskets of apples and drying herbs on the porch mingled their scents with those of the neighboring pine woods." [4] In 1904, Cora officially divorced Millay's father for financial irresponsibility, but they had been separated for some years prior. Struggling financially, Cora and her three daughters, Edna (who called herself "Vincent"), Norma, and Kathleen, moved from town to town, living in poverty. Cora traveled with a trunk full of classic literature, including Shakespeare and Milton, which she read to her children. The family settled in a small house on the property of Cora's aunt in Camden, Maine, where Millay would write the first of the poems that would bring her literary fame.

The three sisters were independent and spoke their minds, which did not always sit well with the authority figures in Millay's life. Her grade school principal, offended by her frank attitudes, refused to call her Vincent. Instead, he called her by any woman's name that started with a V.[5] At Camden High School Millay began developing her literary talents, starting at the school's literary magazine, The Megunticook. At 14 she won the St. Nicholas Gold Badge for poetry and by 15 she had published her poetry in the popular children's magazine St. Nicholas, the Camden Herald and the high profile anthology Current Literature. While at school she had several relationships with women, including Edith Wynne Matthison who would go on to become an actress in silent films. [6] Millay entered Vassar college at 21, later than usual, having relationships with several fellow students during her time there.[5] In January 1921, she went to Paris, where she met and befriended sculptor Thelma Wood.[7]

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