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.

Dappled Light and Poetry

There is something so beautiful about dappled light.

My hike today included a long path with such light.  It lay before me, like a regal carpet with a welcoming invitation.  “Become dappled as well,” it seemed to say.

And so I did.

I walk steadily along, with a gentle breeze, tall trees on either side; light piercing through numerous spaces in the canopy of branches above. dappled

I brought a poetry book (this has become a new habit). Poetry, I thought, might be considered dappled words and befitting to read in such light.

I opened to the first poem, a well-known poem, a favorite.

Renascence, from The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay:

 

 

*****

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide

Above the world is stretched the sky, –

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two, 

And let the face of God shine through. 

Excerpt from Renascence, Edna St. Vincent Millay

sun

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend full of long paths,

tall trees,

and dappled light.

 

Writing, Reading, and Listening

It was a long winter.  For everyone.

But today — as I was hiking under a clear blue sky — I felt the weight of winter (finally) lifting.

Oh, the joy!

Nature has the incredible power to change our mood and also open doors of inspiration that allow words to flow easily and naturally.  She also helps us to notice beauty (if we listen).

During my hike, halfway up the hill, I sat down on a bench and took out my paperback copy of The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay to a most appropriate page:

***

I will be the gladdest thing

   Under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers

   And not pick one.

 

I will look at cliffs and clouds

   With quiet eyes,

Watch the wind bow down the grass,

   And the grass rise.

 

And when lights begin to show

   Up from the town,

I will mark which must be mine,

And then start down.

— Afternoon on a Hill, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’m hoping that the coming (warmer) months will bring more days “under the sun” and will fulfill us all in such a way that the simple touch of a flower will bring us joy, gladness, and inspiration.

To be outdoors — experiencing nature in her full glory — just feels “right,” doesn’t it?

Going forward, I will be spending less time on the computer and more time just “listening.”  

I will not miss my computer.

I don’t think anyone on their deathbed has every uttered, “Oh, how I wish I’d spent more time on my laptop.”

So, enjoy the weekend,

breathe some fresh air,

and spend an afternoon, outdoors,

perhaps on a hill,

and listen.