Remembering poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who became a literary sensation during the first half of the 20th century:
"Millay’s reach was remarkable, particularly in an age before television. Biographer Nancy Milford recounts how, after winning the Pulitzer, Millay started traveling around the country giving readings to packed auditoriums, and for her audiences, whatever line may have existed between her life and her art was completely obscured by these performances. Onstage she appeared an astonishing creature, a real live New Yorker and honest-to-god poetess who looked and played the part: loose velvet robes dwarfed her pale, tiny frame, making her resonant voice with its clipped consonants and plummy vowels seem all the more dramatic in comparison. By then she was bobbing her hair, and after her visit to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the campus newspaper noted that the percentage of bobbed hairstyles among students shot up from 9 percent to 63 percent."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 12, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2347 words)
A woman recovering from a kidney transplant finds solace in poetry:
"I began with C.K. Williams’s 'Dream' ('Mad dreams! Mad love!') and ended with Kyger’s '[He is pruning the privet]': 'You are not alone is this world / not a lone a parallel world of reflection / in a window keeps the fire burning.' In between, I found Swithering by Robin Robertson and through 'Trysts' met him on the riverbed. Ada Limón’s 'Crush' cut 'the right branch / and a sort of light / woke up underneath.' I ached for the current between Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, and the ancient liberties taken by Cavafy and Catullus. I luxuriated in the ecstatic poetry of Mirabai and mused on the grand time Jane Hirshfield and Robert Bly must have shared while making their translations. I grabbed onto Kevin Young’s shirttails for a wild ride, and I was no less than razed and rebuilt by Richard Siken’s 'Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out': 'The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell. / Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.' Mary Oliver’s West Wind dazzled me with its investigation into longing, and in American Primitive I cherished Oliver’s 'The Plum Trees,' with its advice that 'the only way / to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it / into the body first, like small / wild plums.'"
PUBLISHED: May 10, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2422 words)
It’s always interesting when a very strange book is also an enduringly popular book. The Bell Jar has sold more than three million copies and is a mainstay of American high school English classes; it was made into a movie in 1979, and another version, starring Julia Stiles, is currently in production. Like The Catcher in the Rye, it is a touchstone for a certain kind of introspective, moody teenager—the kind of teenager who used to listen to the Cure and, later on, Tori Amos, and who these days listens to—actually I have no idea, but she definitely has a blog.
PUBLISHED: July 31, 2011
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4578 words)