Saturday, 26 January 2013

Discover New Writers

00:00:00 Posted by Ashley Lister , , , 3 comments

 By Ashley Lister

 Late last month I was writing a paper about poetry. It was a general paper and I’ll be delivering it at a conference in a month’s time. But, whilst I was writing the paper I inadvertently ended up discovering Edna St Vincent Millay.

Not that she’d been missing and I found her.

And not that I didn’t know some of her poetry before. I’d encountered First Fig a few years ago and thought it was an entertaining piece of writing.

First Fig
By Edna St Vincent Millay

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.[1]

But I didn’t know that Edna St Vincent Millay was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t know that she was a poet and a playwright, a feminist and an activist, and openly bisexual in an era when being open about any type of sexuality was frowned upon.

Some commentators suggest that it’s easier to understand First Fig when the reader is aware of ESVM’s bisexuality. I don’t know whether I subscribe to this belief. I do know that discovering Edna St Vincent Millay’s writing made that research immensely more pleasurable than it had been.

Which is why, my advice for this week’s topic, would always be to take the time to discover new writers. Whether they’re alive or dead, new or old, proven or untested it’s worth taking the time to explore how someone unfamiliar puts pen to paper. Sometimes it might be a disaster. But, more often than not, the discovery can be incredible.

I Too Beneath Your Moon, Almighty Sex
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,
Go forth at nightfall crying like a cat,
Leaving the lofty tower I laboured at
For birds to foul and boys and girls to vex
With tittering chalk; and you, and the long necks
Of neighbours sitting where their mothers sat
Are well aware of shadowy this and that
In me, that’s neither noble nor complex.
Such as I am, however, I have brought
To what it is, this tower; it is my own;
Though it was reared To Beauty, it was wrought
From what I had to build with: honest bone
Is there, and anguish; pride; and burning thought;
And lust is there, and nights not spent alone.[2]

[1]Edna St Vincent Millay, (1923) ‘First Fig’ from Ballad of the Harp Weaver, and other short poems.  
[2] I Too Beneath Your Moon, Almighty Sex, Accessed 27th December 2012 


Christo Heyworth said...

Very good to see you advising reading as well as encouraging BDGPSers to write, Ashley - so often I post the work of others (probably better-known) in the hope of sparking inspiration. I am not prolific enough nor self-confident about the quality of my own output to post pieces of my own.
ESVM is interesting not only as an individual, but for the variety and craft of her work, and, as far as i know, never features on any English syllabus below undergraduate level, more's the pity.
As you will see I find your piece funny, interesting and poetic, not a triple accolade often accorded the blog.
Thank you very much.

Ashley R Lister said...


I'm glad the blog entertained. As you say - reading is just as important as writing. Even more important is that synergistic blend of the two that helps us create poetry :-)


Adele said...

I have also found a new poet. I bought his book and will share it at Friday's meeting of the Dead Good Poets Society at Cafe Number Five, Cedar Square.Blackpool.