You asked for it: time to get Millay-d.Posted: August 9, 2011
I’m not in a good place right now. I just feel like I should tell you that before we get started. You know, “journalistic integrity.” I’m not going to get into it, but LHB is on a wonderful dream vacation in the land of efficiency and modern art and pretzels and men wearing thick-rimmed glasses, I finished watching Arrested Development for the first time last night and subsequently there is a hole in my chest, and Stand By Me has been on TV all weekend, which is A) one of the best coming-of-age movies ever made and B) really fucking depressing and beautiful now that I’m not eight years old anymore and the dramatic irony of River Phoenix’s death has sunken in. Remember the last scene of the movie? When sweet River says, “Not if I see you first?” My throat is so tight.
Obviously, I’ve got a lot of
white girl problems feelings. But that’s fine, because so did EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY!!!!!!!!!!1
If you follow us on the Facebook, you may recall that we gave you a special treat in honor of our 10,000th hit. We let one of YOU choose the subject of our next post! You’re fucking welcome. And dear Kate, one of our Bath buddies, she of the fierce clothes and lovely flaxen hair, suggested we look into the life and sexy times of Miss Edna. So we did. Kate, thank you for a fantastic suggestion and for generally being such a good bitch. And for letting LHB and I come over and watch True Blood with you and JAF every Thursday night.
Edna was so sexy for so long that it was impossible to isolate just one scandalous incident, so we’re going to DO them all. Brace yourselves.
Miss Millay was from Rockland, Maine, which coincidentally is where the asylum that inspired Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is located. You know, the whole last section with the “I’m with you in Rockland” anaphora bit (Listen, I’m an English major going into my senior year. In May I’m going to hate myself and my life decisions. Indulge me.)
Anyway, dear Edna and her two sisters were raised by her mommy, who moved from town to town in Maine with a big ol’ trunk full of literary classics, struggling to stay above the poverty line. As a result of the lack of food/preponderance of good books, Edna was wicked smaht and good at writing poetry from a young age. She published her first and maybe best poem, “Renascence,” when she was like 19 or 20. What was I doing last year, when I was 20? Fucking working at an ice cream store. Prior to this she’d also been published in several national anthologies and won a couple of poetry awards. Again, I was working in an ice cream store. Choices.
All these accolades must have provided Edna with some kick-ass personal statement fodder, because girlfriend got accepted with a capital A at Vassar when she was 21 in 1913. She was kind of oldish to be starting college, but none of her lady friends seemed to mind since she made out with most of them. THAT’S RIGHT, y’all. Edna, like many young coeds, probably indulged in a few too many skippies during her first year and started kissing the ladies. And then also probably had lady sex with them. Just saying. One of those ladies was Edith Wynne Matthison, who went on to become a noted silent film star. By “noted” I mean “I’ve never heard of her but Wikipedia says she’s famous so she was probably really important.” I sort of wish they’d stayed together because “Edith & Edna” would look real fucking cute on a civil partnership celebration invite, am I right?
But Edna had bigger fish to fry. She went on a little trip to Paris, got knocked up by a French violinist, got a li’l abortion, and came back to the US of A. She moved to the Village, where, like many young ladies who move to the city, she said “HEY WORLD, I’m here, I’m bisexual, get used to it.” She also started writing prolifically to keep herself afloat, and then started boning a lot of dudes, including Floyd Dell, a fellow writer who said she “had a mouth like a Valentine.” Which is sweet, but also doesn’t make any fucking sense. Anyway, Floyd, the poet Witter Bynner, and Edmund Wilson, a VIP in the New York literary/critical world of the 1920s (just ask F. Scott), proposed marriage to her, but girlfriend was an Independent Woman. Also I’m thinking she wasn’t ready to commit to the penis just yet.
Plus her career was really taking off, and a ladywriter in this time really needed to keep her game up if she wanted to be taken seriously. She won the Pulitzer in 1923, which was like, the biggest big fucking deal ever. I guess from there she decided that she could settle down with a nice man or woman and have babies or a lot of cats, depending.
Well score one for the dicks, because Edna married Eugen Jan Boissevian that same year. He’d been married to Inez Milholland, one of Edna’s friends and possible fuckbuddies in the Village. Interesting. Anyway, they were married for twenty-six years, but really took that whole “love, honor, and cherish” thing with a big ol’ grain of salt, in that they both had a lot of extramarital sex with a lot of extramarital partners. Specifically Edna. Old Euge liked to do chores and shit, he was profeminist, and sort of a pussy (obviously imagining Tobias Fünke right now), so I’m thinking she was really cleaning up in the adultery department.
Her most scandalous affair was with George Dillon, whom she met in 1928 after she gave a reading at the University of Chicago. He’d just graduated and was twenty-two to her thirty-six. To which I say, WERQ, woman. And because I never miss an opportunity to use 1920s slang or to colloquialize historical exchanges:
EDNA: Well hello there, fish.
YOUNG GEORGE: Aw, I’m no fish. Your poetry is just the berries, plus you’re a real Sheba.
E: Oh, applesauce!
YG: Let’s go beat our gums somewhere else. Come get some giggle water down at the gin mill with me, doll!
E: As long as you don’t mind this handcuff I got!
YG: Horsefeathers! You’re a real bearcat, aren’t you? Listen, I got my breezer outside. We’ll go to the juice joint and get some hooch and skip the light fantastic, whaddaya say?
E: Cash or check?
YG: I have no idea what the fuck we’re saying.
E: Me either. Let’s have sex, though.
And that’s exactly what they did. Edna ended up writing fifty-two (!) sonnets about George in a work that she called Fatal Interview published in 1931. They had a rocky relationship, and although the juicy details haven’t survived, I think it’s safe to say that Edna wasn’t taking any shit from her boylover. I’ve never read anything in Fatal Interview, but just the title sounds fucking sexy. I’m not NOT looking it up on my library’s online card catalog right now. And hey, despite their little tiffs, Edna was one professional bitch and helped young George translate some Baudelaire in 1936, presumably after their relationship had ended. Although let’s face it, nothing reignites an old flame like a nineteenth-century French literary critic, so there was probs some boning going on too.
Anyway, from there Edna’s love life sort of took a backseat to her involvement in political things, like protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti case and Fascism and what not. You know, “current events.” She started writing propaganda verse for Uncle Sam, but that fickle motherfucker had deadlines, and Edna couldn’t handle that. She was an ARTIST, dammit. So she stopped writing for a while, and never really picked it back up. I like to think she went back to having sex with inappropriately younger partners, but I can’t confirm that.
Ultimately, Edna died after suffering a fall in her sweetass upstate New York farmhouse in 1950. She caught a lot of flack for being a Romanticist in a time when Modernism was all the rage. But you know what’s always in style? BONING.
So here’s to Edna St. Vincent Millay, a fierce, sexually curious bitch, and Kate, the For Shame friend who brought her sexploits to light.
But honestly, probably the sexiest Edna of all time, right? Shit, she subverted that name real hard.