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Edna St Vincent Millay Biography

(1892–1950), The Princess Marries the Page, Aria da Capo, The Lamp and the Bell

American poet and writer, born in Rockland, Maine, educated at Barnard and Vassar Colleges. Millay gained her reputation by voicing the spirit of rebelliousness and liberalism in the 1920s. She worked as an actress, becoming associated with the Provincetown Playhouse and the Theatre Guild, and writing several satirical verse-plays, The Princess Marries the Page (1918, published 1932), Aria da Capo (1920), The Lamp and the Bell (1921), and Two Slatterns and a King (1921). Her first book of poetry, Renascence and Other Poems (1917), demonstrated technical mastery and verve. This was followed by two volumes which vacillated between the lightly cynical and the morbidly tragic, A Few Figs from Thistles (1920) and Second April (1921), both of which displayed a highly personal lyricism and a conscious use of archaism. After a period in Europe, she settled on a farm in upstate New York and published many more volumes of poetry, including The Harp Weaver and Other Poems (1923, Pulitzer Prize), which is notable for a deeper disillusionment than her earlier work; and several volumes which demonstrated an acclaimed sonnet technique and a lyric directness, The Buck in the Snow (1928), Fatal Interview (1931), and Wine from These Grapes (1934). She took part in public affairs, being arrested and jailed in Boston for her support for Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927. During the 1930s she wrote anti-totalitarian verse, radio plays, and speeches. Her increased social consciousness is evident in the dramatic narrative Conversation at Midnight (1937), and several other volumes: Huntsman, What Quarry? (1939), Make Bright the Arrows (1940), and Murder of Lidice (1942), a radio poem. She wrote the libretto for The King's Henchmen (1927), an opera by Deems Taylor. Her Collected Sonnets appeared in 1941, her Collected Poems in 1956, and her Letters in 1952.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: McTeague to Nancy [Freeman] Mitford Biography