Rapture and Melancholy The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay Edna St. Vincent Millay, Daniel Mark Epstein, Holly Peppe

Publication date:
12 Apr 2022
Yale University Press
416 pages: 235 x 156mm
11 b-w illus.
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The first publication of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s private, intimate diaries, providing “a candid self-portrait of the ‘bad girl of American letters’” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Endlessly intriguing and illuminating. The publication of Edna St. Vincent Millay's diaries is a major literary event, providing astonishing insight into the great poet’s art and life.”—Chloe Honum, author of The Tulip-Flame
The English author Thomas Hardy proclaimed that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. In these diaries the great American poet illuminates not only her literary genius, but her life as a devoted daughter, sister, wife, and public heroine; and finally as a solitary, tragic figure.
This is the first publication of the diaries she kept from adolescence until middle age, between 1907 and 1949, focused on her most productive years. Who was the girl who wrote “Renascence,” that marvel of early twentieth-century poetry? What trauma or spiritual journey inspired the poem? And after such celebrity why did she vanish into near seclusion after 1940? These questions hover over the life and work, and trouble biographers and readers alike. Intimate, eloquent, these confessions and keen observations provide the key to understanding Millay’s journey from small-town obscurity to world fame, and the tragedy of her demise.

Pulitzer Prize winner Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was a poet and playwright. Millay biographer Daniel Mark Epstein is a poet and dramatist, the author of books about Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, and Bob Dylan, and a recipient of awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Holly Peppe, literary executor for Edna St. Vincent Millay, has written and lectured about the poet’s life and work since the early 1980’s, when she lived in Millay’s home at Steepletop with the poet’s younger sister Norma. Dr. Peppe’s essays about Millay appear in the Penguin Classics, Harper Perennial, and Yale University Press editions of her poetry.

“A book of surprising revelations and careful silences, these diaries constitute a remarkable portrait not only of a woman, an artist, and a citizen, but of the cultural life of her time.”— David Bergman, author of The Poetry of Disturbance

“An essential work for the study of Millay, Daniel Mark Epstein’s brilliant edition of her diaries takes us with great knowledge and insight behind the scenes of her remarkably poetic, complex life.”—Jonathan Cohen, author of Muna Lee: A Pan-American Life

“Endlessly intriguing and illuminating. The publication of Edna St. Vincent Millay's diaries is a major literary event, providing astonishing insight into the great poet's art and life.”—Chloe Honum, author of  The Tulip-Flame

“From her ‘tired and crushed and driven’ girlhood through days of gardening in the nude, Millay kept diaries that illuminate a gifted poet’s life and are a pleasure to read. Millay’s prejudices emerge as nakedly as the gardener herself, and the late entries about addiction are devastating. I’m still grateful for this book. It was hard for an ambitious woman to survive her own daring. We need to remember it.”—Lesley Wheeler, author of Poetry’s Possible Worlds