Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism. The poet Richard Wilbur asserted, "She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." After her graduation from Vassar in 1917, Millay moved to New York City. She lived in Greenwich Village. Millay described her life in New York as "very, very poor and very, very merry." While establishing her career as a poet, Millay initially worked with the Provincetown Players on Macdougal Street and the Theatre Guild. In 1924 Millay and others founded the Cherry Lane Theater "to continue the staging of experimental drama."
Her 1920 collection A Few Figs From Thistles drew controversy for its novel exploration of female sexuality and feminism. In 1919 she wrote the anti-war play Aria da Capo which starred her sister Norma Millay at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City. Millay won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 for "The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver". In 1923 she married 43-year-old Eugen Jan Boissevain, a self-proclaimed feminist. During the first World War, Millay had been a dedicated and active pacifist; however, from 1940 she supported the Allied Forces, writing in celebration of the war effort, including poetry. Her reputation in poetry circles was damaged by her war work. Merle Rubin noted: "She seems to have caught more flak from the literary critics for supporting democracy than Ezra Pound did for championing fascism."
In 1943 Millay was the sixth person and the second woman to be awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. Millay died at her home in 1950 at the age of 58.
In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month.
POETRY BY EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY
Renascence and Other Poems. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1917; A Few Figs from Thistles: Poems and Four Sonnets, Salvo One. New York: Frank Shay,1920; Second April. New York: Mitchell Kennerley,1921; The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1923;The Buck in the Snow. New York: Harper&Brothers,1928; Edna St. Vincent Millay Poems Selected for Young People. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1929; Fatal Interview. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1931; Wine from These Grapes. New York: Harper&Brothers,1934; The Flowers of Evil (Translation with George Dillon]. New York: Harper&Brothers,1936; Conversation at Midnight. New York: Harper & Brothers,1937; Huntsman, What Quarry? New York: Harper & Brothers, 1939; Make Bright the Arrows: 1940 Notebook. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940; The Murder of Lidice. New York: Harper&Brothers,1942; Mine the Harvest. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954; and Collected Poems. New York: Harper&Brothers,1956.
PLAYS BY EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
Aria da Capo. New York: Mitchell Kinnerley,1921; The Lamp and the Bell. New York: FrankShay,1921; The King’s Henchman. New York: Harper&Brothers,1927; The Princess Marries the Page. New York: Harper&Brothers,1932; Two Slatterns and a King: A Moral Interlude. Cincinnati: Stewart Kidd,1921.
For more information about Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Jackson, Timothy F. Editor, with Introduction by Holly Peppe, Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Yale University Press, 2016.
Goddu, Krystyna Poray, A Girl Called Vincent, Chicago Review Press, 2016.
Milford, Nancy. Savage Beauty. The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Random House, New York, 2001.
Epstein, Daniel Mark. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed-The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Henry Holt and Company, 2001.
Nierman, Judith. Edna St. Vincent Millay – a reference guide. G. K. Hall & Company, Boston, 1977.
Sheean, Vincent. The Indigo Bunting – A Memoir of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Schocken Books, 1951.