Poems Without Frontiers

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Edna St Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950)

Edna was born in Rockland Maine, US, to a family where her father was a teacher and her mother a nurse. In 1904, however, their marriage ended in divorce after several years' separation. She moved several times with her mother and her two younger sisters before settling in Camden, Maine, where she attended Camden High School and began a successful career in poetry.

At the age of 21, she attended Vassar College aided by financial contributions from a benefactor, Caroline B Dow, who was impressed by her early poems, including Renascence, which gathered increased recognition of her abilities. She graduated in 1917 and moved to New York, NY, where her life style included bisexual friendships. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923.

In 1921, she had visited Paris but returned to US in order to abort an unwanted pregnancy, married the older Eugen Jan Boissevain in 1923 and, two years later, settled with him at Steepleton, Austerlitz, NY.

She had enjoyed increasing fame through the 1920s and 1930s but she was thrown from a vehicle in 1936 with the consequence that she suffered spinal nerve pain for the remainder of her life. Medical bills and the demands of her chosen lifestyle imposed severe financial restrictions. She died at home from a heart attack and the consequent fall down stairs.

Her sister, Norma, then moved to Steepleton where she established a Colony for the Arts. The house later became a museum to Edna's works which were strongly orientated towards feminism and against injustice.