The bisexual Edna St. Vincent Millay: Her poetry and passion
Best known for her lyrical poetry, Edna St. Vincent Millay was a twentieth-century poet and playwright who became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. She was also a bisexual.
Her anthology of poetry A Few Figs from Thistles was controversial for its descriptions of feminism and female sexuality.
She was also brave enough to put forward a challenging idea back in the 1900s– that a woman has a right to sexual pleasure, and had no obligation to fidelity.
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Her life as a boy
While Edna was being conceived, her mother was apparently convinced that she was pregnant with a boy. Likewise, throughout her life she was known as Vincent to her family and close friends.
During her childhood, she had published poems in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas. By the age of sixteen, Millay already had a genuine “sense of vocation” as a poet.
Four years after, she entered a lucrative poetry contest at the urging of her mother. The best entries of that contest would be published in a volume.
The long poem Millay entered– entitled “Renascence”– won 4th place and not only brought her literary recognition, it gained her a scholarship to attend Vassar College.
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Her love for women
What isn’t widely publicized is that she also identified herself as bisexual, having many affairs with both women and men before her marriage.
During her years at Vassar, she was said to have begun her exploration into relationships with women, some of which were deeply passionate. This included English actress Edith Wynne Matthison, who was twice her age.
They wrote to each other. In one of the letters, Millay wrote: “You wrote me a beautiful letter. I wonder if you meant it to be as beautiful as it was. I think you did; for somehow I know that your feeling for me, however slight it is, is the nature of love.”
“When you tell me to come, I will come, by the next train, just as I am. This is now meekness, be assured; I do not come naturally by meekness know that it is a proud surrender to You,” she added.
When she got married in 1923, Millay and Eugen Boissevain, her husband, had an agreement that their marriage would be sexually “open.”
Millay claimed her husband allowed her personal freedom, and that they lived like two bachelors.
Certainly, this was highly unusual in the 1920s. But this was indicative Millay’s stubborn individuality and determination to do things on her own way.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, we can now listen to her recite one of her poems below. Check it out: