Rapture and Melancholy

Edna St. Vincen Millay


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Yale University Press
12 April 2022
ISBN: 9780300245684
416 pages

From the publisher

The first publication of Edna St. Vincent Millay's private, intimate diaries, providing "a candid self-portrait of the 'bad girl of American letters'" (Kirkus Reviews)

"Provides an occasion to revisit not just [Millay's] improbable life but also her sometimes revelatory work. . . . Hopefully the release of this complex woman's diaries will draw readers' attention to the complexity of her work, which offers much more than figs and ferries."-Abigail Deutsch, Wall Street Journal

"These diaries show us the young writer who was a sensitive, often forlorn, aspirant and the established poet at the apex of literary fame who achieved her wildest early fantasies."-Declan Ryan, PoetryFoundation.org

The English author Thomas Hardy proclaimed that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. In these diaries the great American poet illuminates not only her literary genius, but her life as a devoted daughter, sister, wife, and public heroine; and finally as a solitary, tragic figure.

This is the first publication of the diaries she kept from adolescence until middle age, between 1907 and 1949, focused on her most productive years. Who was the girl who wrote "Renascence," that marvel of early twentieth-century poetry? What trauma or spiritual journey inspired the poem? And after such celebrity why did she vanish into near seclusion after 1940? These questions hover over the life and work, and trouble biographers and readers alike. Intimate, eloquent, these confessions and keen observations provide the key to understanding Millay's journey from small-town obscurity to world fame, and the tragedy of her demise.