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Edna St. Vincent Millay On Vitality Over Longevity

Edna St. Vincent Millay On Vitality Over Longevity

My candle burns at both ends;
it will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh my friends -
It gives a lovely light!

- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay holds a special place in my heart. She was one of my mother’s favorite poets. Like Millay, she lived life to the fullest and died too young, so this poem had a profound meaning to her (and still does for me).

Millay was every bit the rebel that you’ve heard. After winning the pulitzer prize for poetry (first lady to do so btw), she ventured into a life of Bohemian abandan that would have made Kerouac blush, a generation before he stepped on the road. She scandalized finger-wags everywhere with her cigarettes and affairs and crowds of poetry fans (remember those!?). She made Greenwich Village cool, then made moving upstate cool, then made gardening cool for pete’s sake. And all the time she wrote gorgeous poetry. My lord, the prolific, gorgeous poetry.

Yeah, I’d say she burned at least twice as bright, wouldn’t you?

This drawing is from my illustrated book Women Writers: Collected Works & Poems.

About the Art

“This illustration is an ode to those who live out loud. The twin flames of a candle merge into the billowing dress of an intrepid dreamer, her hair curling like smoke.”

Art by Evan Robertson. All rights reserved.

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