Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: "First Fig and Other Poems"

First Fig and Other PoemsFirst 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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Sherry Blue Sky said...

I enjoyed this review, Shay. Love the backstory of the Horrid Teacher.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I enjoyed this review, Shay. Love the backstory of the Horrid Teacher.

Cloudia said...

Silly of me to just realize the resemblance (reincarnation?)

Sioux said...

Okay, I've never read her stuff and had the same opinion--some old lady with dusty thoughts.

I guess I need to check her out, huh?

Mama Zen said...

Oh, I like her!

Blogoratti said...

Great review and seems like a fine read.

Anonymous said...

I'll spend some time reading her today. What an excellent book title. And the picture-snippet you included at the end of this post immediately grips my soul. The stars and italics add a little something explosive, as well.

P.S. I still think of you every time I'm in the YA room at the library because of our shared reading of Shiver, which I will never forget. In fact, I think I'd like to reread it, along with the rest of the series. Did you ever read the other two?

my heart's love songs said...

i hadn't read the poem you ended your post with... LOVE it! First Fig is my very-favorite-of-all-time poem. {silly title though}