First Fig and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I was in middle school--or junior high, as we called it then--a hated English teacher made us all miss an event that most of us wanted to be part of, in order to study Edna St. Vincent Millay, thus setting me dead against both of them for decades after. What an old lady name anyway, she couldn't possibly have anything to say to me! Well....wrong.
I am grateful that I finally gave Edna a chance after a friend introduced me to her poem "Recuerdo." Old lady my eye, here was a passionate soul! Her poems are full to the brim with desire, an eye for nature, the desire to get up and go, love who she might, and make gorgeous poetry out of all of it, even the regrets. My favorites here, besides "Recuerdo" were "Spring", "Song of a Second Spring", "Prayer To Persephone" and the light-hearted "The Bean-Stalk." The only poem I didn't like at all was the lengthy and --to me at least--dull "Ode To Silence", which read like a roll-call of mythological figures, all to no very thrilling point. The rest? Amazing.
But wait, there's more! I've never particularly been a fan of the sonnet form...until now. Millay was an acknowledged master at it, and after reading hers--and there are many in this volume--I'm converted. I read them all multiple times, first for the emotion and meaning, and then again to see how she did it, complete with margin notes. Hey, she told me it was okay. In the included poem "The Poet and His Book", she writes "Read me, margin me with scrawling", and so I did. I did!
I am so glad I gave her poetry a chance, despite Mrs. Griffith of middle school infamy. The whole book was a joy and a revelation. Here is an unconventional woman who could write the most conventional forms in such a way as to set them on fire with her words. Very much recommended.
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