Downtown Poet (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Yesterday after work, I took a walk by the former home of Edna St. Vincent Millay at 75 1/2 Bedford Street.

I suppose the address includes “1/2” as the building itself is squeezed between two others, uniquely the slimmest on the block.  A befitting address, I think, as her voice was poetically unique.

Her middle name derives from St. Vincent’s Hospital (now closed) on 12th Street.  It was the hospital in which her uncle had been healed just before she was born.  She actually preferred being called Vincent, but her teachers refused to use the name, one calling her ANY female name but Vincent.

The shops on and around Bedford Street have of course changed, but the spirit of art still hangs in the air; the scent of coffee, bold paintings in shop windows, a flower stand on the corner of Cornelia Street.

From the corner of Bedford, one can see the red plaque that hangs above her former door and the thought of her sipping on a cup of coffee on the stoop beside 75 1/2 made me smile.

The plaque reads:

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) – The irreverent poet who wrote “my candle burns at both ends” lived here in 1923-1924 in the time she wrote The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.    

The area is still charming and full of life, but (as you can read in her stanza below) there were times in which she craved the open air of the shore.

EXILED

Searching my heart for its true sorrow, 

This is the thing I find to be: 

That I am weary of words and people, 

Sick of the city, wanting the sea; 

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness 

Of the strong wind and shattered spray; 

Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound

Of the big surf that breaks all day ….

* * * *

I snapped a few photos, felt an urge to blog about it (as I’ve now done), stopped by See’s on West Eighth Street for a few pieces of dark chocolate,

and, although not sick of the city myself…

headed home to the (sometimes salty) air of Long Island.

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