30 June 2006, Belle to Kathy
... I am trying to figure out what to do with my life next, so I was thinking that maybe I could develop a research/writing project. Who has lived in this area? Whose archives might conveniently for me be located but a short drive away?
I discovered that Edna St. Vincent Millay lived at a farm-estate called "Steepletop," in Austerlitz, several miles east. I never read her poetry, and didn't know anything about her. But I have just finished reading one of her biographies - and I couldn't put it down. It's called What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, by a poet, Daniel Marc Epstein. Beautifully written, he tells the story of how her love life - which was prodigious - informed her love poems. She was quite a fascinating character. She had such personal magnetism that men (and not a few women, in her college days at Vassar) would instantly fall madly in love with her. Granted, perhaps this was the era when "a glimpse of stocking" might make a man swoon (she lived 1892-1950), but she was definitely ahead of her time in the Free Love area. Interesting relationship with her devoted husband too (actually they were mutually devoted). He understood that she needed to be in an "ecstatic" state in order to produce a great poem - so when he sensed some quivering going on, he would discreetly absent himself. He figured that if this produced but one great sonnet a year it was worth it!
Unfortunately I doubt I will be writing about her - I'm too late - her archives which used to reside at Steepletop are now at the Library of Congress. But one other tidbit: apparently there is a cache of artistic nude photos of her in the archives - that are embargoed from public view until 2011! (She died in 1950 - no direct descendants - so these must be some photos.)
Anyway - if you'd like a good read - I do recommend that biography.
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