The American poet and dramatist who came to personify romantic rebellion and bravado in the 1920s was born in the small town of Rockland, Main on February 22, 1892. She grew up in nearby Camden and her poetry is filled with imagery of the sea and the mountains of her childhood home. When she was eighteen she completed a long poem, "Renascence," published in The Lyric Year in 1912: the judges put it in fourth place, which caused such a controversy among other poets and readers, the loss literally catapulted her to fame; in fact, the first place winner actually offered her his prize money, so certain was he and others she deserved first place.
One of the quatrains included in her first book, Renascence and Other Poems (1917), One of the quatrains included in her first book, Renascence and Other Poems (1917), almost became a mantra for the Roaring Twenties: "My candle burns at both its ends/It will not last the night/ But ah my foes, and oh my friends/It gives a lovely light." In addition to her several books of poetry, she wrote some well-produced plays and an opera.
Despite their devotion to one another, her marriage to Dutch businessman Eugen Boissevain did not seem to affect the several love affairs both enjoyed - Edna's with women as well as men. They purchased a farm in Austerlitz, New York, dubbed Steepletop, where Millay died of a heart attack on October 19, 1950, less than a year after Boissevain died of lung cancer.
Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1923). Her sonnets and other poems are particularly noted for their smooth integration of form and contemporaneity. Steepletop is now the Millay Colony for the Arts.
Books by Millay
Books about Millay