This morning it took 3 squares of Lindt's 70% Dark Cocoa chocolate to jumpstart my writing: where will it end? To counteract the dark lovely bitterness of the chocolate, I read a few poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I bought a paperback of her collected poems when I was in high school--one of the first books I bought for myself, at Schroeder's Bookstore on Public Square, now and for a
long time defunct. I keep reading them trying to imagine what my fifteen or sixteen-year-old self thought of them. I'd already decided I wanted to be a writer, but I don't remember ever thinking, I want to write a poem just like "The Suicide," which is pages long and very gloomy:
"Curse thee, Life, I will live with thee no more!
Thou hast mocked me, starved me, beat my body
And so on, for hundreds of lines. She liked exclamation points a lot, at least in her early poems. They are arranged chronologically in the book, so I'm now in the midst of her third book, published when she was around 29. There are more fun ones than "The Suicide"--a jaunty poem called "The Beanstalk," for instance, which familiarly addresses the giant, and which I take to be about being a poet and a woman in the early part of the 20th century.
My favorite so far is "Passer Mortuus Est," a witty and delightfully snide comment on love that's over, with a soupcon of feeling coming out at the end. Check it out, here
. The title is from a poem by Catullus on the death of his mistress's sparrow (prose translation here
), and Dorothy Parker was similarly inspired--see her not quite as delightful poem, here
"Passer Mortuus Est" is also mercifully brief, after all those long, long, long poems on death and betrayal and grief. I believe that she had a pretty good time as a young woman in the free-loving post-WWI American years--but you wouldn't know it from the early poems.