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I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed

Edna St. Vincent Millay. "She made poetry seem so easy that we could all do it. But, of course, we couldn’t.”
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay. "She made poetry seem so easy that we could all do it. But, of course, we couldn’t.”
  • I, being born a woman and distressed 
  • By all the needs and notions of my kind,
  • Am urged by your propinquity to find
  • Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
  • To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
  • So subtly is the fume of life designed,
  • To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
  • And leave me once again undone, possessed.
  • Think not for this, however, the poor treason
  • Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
  • I shall remember you with love, or season
  • My scorn with pity, — let me make it plain:
  • I find this frenzy insufficient reason
  • For conversation when we meet again.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–­1950) was born in Rockland, Maine, attended Vassar College, and upon graduation moved to Greenwich Village. Millay later characterized her life in New York as “very, very poor and very, very merry.” A playwright as well as a poet, she worked with the Provincetown Players on MacDougal Street in the Village and in 1924 was one of the founders of the important Cherry Lane Theater.

In 1917, she published her first collection, Renascence and Other Poems, and in 1923, when Millay was just 31 years old, she published The Harp Weaver and Other Poems, in which this poem first appeared, a collection for which Millay won the Pulitzer Prize. A master of rhymed, metrical forms and a superb sonneteer, Millay wrote a poetry that was at once witty, perceptive, passionate, provocatively unconventional in sentiment, and more often than not exquisitely wrought. Her brilliant achievements in strict form place her in the first ranks of 20th American poets, and today Millay’s poetry remains widely read and admired.

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