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Edna St. Vincent Millay

Millay, Edna St. Vincent (mĭlāˈ) [key], 1892–1950, American poet, b. Rockland, Maine, grad. Vassar College, 1917. One of the most popular poets of her era, Millay was admired as much for the bohemian freedom of her youthful lifestyle as for her verse. During the early 1920s she lived in Greenwich Village, New York City, and wrote satiric sketches for Vanity Fair under the pseudonym Nancy Boyd. Among her friends were Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop.

Renascence, her first volume of poetry, appeared in 1917 and was praised for its freshness and vitality. It was followed by A Few Figs from Thistles (1920), Second April (1921), and The Ballad of the Harp Weaver (1922; Pulitzer Prize). She also was a member of the Provincetown Players, a group that produced several of her verse dramas, including Aria da Capo (1920) and Two Slatterns and a King (1921).

In 1923 she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a Dutch coffee importer, and moved to "Steepletop," a farm near Austerlitz, N.Y. Although her socially conscious later poetry is generally considered inferior to her early work, it exhibits her absolute mastery of the sonnet form. Among her later volumes are Fatal Interview (1931), a superb sonnet cycle; Conversation at Midnight (1937); and Make Bright the Arrows (1940). She also wrote the libretto for Deems Taylor's opera The King's Henchman (1927) and, with George Dillon, she translated Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil (1936). Eugen Boissevain died in the autumn of 1949, and Millay died less than a year later. In 1976, "Steepletop" opened as an arts colony.

See her collected poems, ed. by N. Millay (1956); her letters, ed. by A. R. Macdougal (1952); biographies by J. Gould (1969), D. M. Epstein (2001), and N. Milford (2001); study by N. A. Brittin (rev. ed. 1982).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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