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The Selected Poetry

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,710 ratings  ·  76 reviews
One of America’s most celebrated poets—and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1923—Edna St. Vincent Millay defined a generation with her passionate lyrics and intoxicating voice of liberation. Edited by Millay biographer Nancy Milford, this Modern Library Paperback Classics collection captures the poet’s unique spirit in works like Renascence and Other Poems, A Few Figs from ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 10th 2002 by Modern Library (first published November 28th 1991)
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 ·  1,710 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain, —
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane,
Neither stop nor start.

People dress and go to town;
I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
Or what shoes I wear.

American poet, playwright, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner and feminist activism, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was an influence on another poet I find
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
These were lovely poems, pleasant to read and with easy interpretations. Some of her poems about death had a very Sylvia Plath feel to them. Most of the poems had nature elements. She described her love for the great outdoors in great detail. I want to go run around in a meadow now :)
Steven Godin
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
My first time reading anything by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and this collection of poems was more than enough to get a good sense of what she was all about. Lots of Variety in the poems, including the afterlife and nature, and she captured various moods that shifted about as I worked my way through.

The Sonnets were the highlight for me,
but some other favourites were -

The Dream
Elegy Before Death
Song of a Second April
The Little Hill
The Poet and his Book
Ode to Silence
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, lady-writers
Everything in life seems to me to be ephemeral, always passing, changing, transforming. Nothing stays the same, nothing lasts. We live in a very narrow slice of infinity, and in our mind we explode every moment of that slice to something enormous, something of incomprehensible significance. We analyze every glance and turn of phrase, we plan our days and weeks and months and five-year plans, and our retirements which we may never reach. We are always sad to let things go, it does not come ...more
I have great difficulties with poetry. At first, it was because I was a member of the "roll your eyes and hold your nose" contingent as regarded pretty much the entire art form. Except Shakespeare, don't you know, because I was a cultured little thing, and well- how couldn't I? That reason changed when all of a sudden, I encountered a poet I loved. And irony of ironies, he was one of the major roll your eyes poets even for people who could enjoy poetry- Byron. I just loved it- but it didn't have ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
From Renascence...

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
- Afternoon on a Hill, pg. 23

* * *

Love, if I weep it will not matter,
And if you laugh I shall not care;
Foolish am I to think about it,
But it is good to feel you there.

Love, in my sleep I
I have always been fond of Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnets. It all started with Love Is Not All one evening whilst looking for something to read before going to bed. I knew then I had to seek more of her works. This sonnet is not included in this collection however but the ones that are have strengthened that fondness by a mile. To discover she was openly bisexual also sheds a new light upon her works; subtly some of them hints on same-sex relationships. Regrettably, I find rhyming poetry a ...more
Nadine Jones
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, re-read
Millay is one of my favorite poets, and this is actually a book I bought for my daughter, but I picked it up and read from it while waiting for my library hold to become available. It's a lovely selection of her work, starting with the famous Renascence, through First Fig, Second Fig, Recuerdo, and so on - it also includes many sonnets.
I'm really not all that great with poetry yet. I think that if I know enough about a poet's personal life that I will have a better appreciation for their poetry. This may or may not be true, but this is sort of my first experience of trying that out, reading two biographies about Millay while reading this selection of poetry on the side.

Knowing more about the author helps in one way - I know what was going on when she wrote certain poems, how old she was, possibly what was going on in the world
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I picked this up because I came across a snippet of one of Millay's poems somewhere (can't remember now of course):

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!

When I read this, I swamped with work, correcting papers, and choreographing/directing a musical. And those four little lines managed to make me nod my head, smile to myself, and think, "Oh yes. I know exactly what she means." So of course, I scurried over to my
Noah Goats
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the precocious power of Renascence to the sentimental but surprisingly effective Ballad of the Harp Weaver, this collection contains one great poem after another. As far as I’m concerned, Millay is one of American literature’s greatest poets, and these lovely and witty poems show why.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I am a little irate that this volume turned out not to be the promised Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, but instead should be titled "Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay That Happens to be in the Public Domain". Namely, this consists of the entirety of her first three collections Renascence and Other Poems, A Few Figs From Thistles, and Second April; as well as "The Ballad of the Harp Weaver" and additional sonnets from American Poetry, 1922: A Miscellany.

There is something I find
Adam Ferrell
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best sonnet writer since Shakespeare.

Many of the poems in this book have changed my vocabulary, my way of thinking, and my definition of literary beauty.
Allison Long
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't know too much about Edna St. Vincent Millay, but the more I read about her, the more I'm intrigued.

I have always adored her poem 'First Fig', so I set out to read more of her poetry. 'Selected Poetry' consists of both flippant verses and those obsessed with death (no really, there is some morbid stuff there). The language is beautiful and sad because so much of it has fallen out of favor with more contemporary styles.

'Selected Poetry' makes you wonder when reading poetry fell out of
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love Millay's poetry. Her engagement with the natural world, her rather cynical view of romance, her moments of grace and grief, all speak to me.
Samantha Ivy (SundressSecrets)
Head on over to my Instagram at for reviews
Richard Smith
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been tidying up the list of 50 or so books that I'm supposedly "currently reading," and the terrible thing is that I am "currently reading" most of them, although so intermittently that I'm stretching the definition of "currently reading" beyond usefulness. But this book of poems by Edna St Vincent Millay I certainly did finish, seven years ago. She was once the most famous poet in America, giving readings to 20 000 people with her distinctive voice. Now she's out of fashion. She's ...more
Andy Oram
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
This is a fine selection from four books, mostly early in Millay's career. Famous for her sonnets, she also showed intriguing skills with free verse and many styles in between. She occasionally went for an easy rhyme, but her syntax is always cleverly invented to convey a meaning beyond the individual words, which are usually very simple and sometimes in a fetching American colloquial that reveals her modern feminine irony ("A ghost in marble of a girl you knew / Who would have loved you in a ...more
Sarah Koppelkam
At first I was like "nah, Edna, you use way too many exclamation points and you're way too reverent" but then I got sucked in by the biting, fiercely independent voice lurking beneath the first few poems of this collection. Then Edna reveals herself with poems like "Thursday":

"And if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday -
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday, - Yes - but what is that to me?"

Edna St.
Rebecca N. McKinnon
I wanted to read a library copy of her work before I delved into a first edition of hers that was gifted to me by someone dear. Some of these poems didn't do much for me, but a great deal of them blew my mind. A lot of them I re-read over and over, in awe at her talent for transporting me into imagery and emotion. Some made me sorrowful, at how truly she understood and articulated grief. Some made me squeal and laugh, to think of a feminist of her time being so upfront, so brazen about ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I first fell in love with her poetry because of a sonnet in a collection of poems that had been featured on the London Underground. That sonnet is a part of this collection, included with its accompanying sonnets.
She makes me laugh and want to cry. Occasionally she makes me want to roll my eyes, but I forgive her because then she’ll write something so evocative, it’s like someone took an image straight from my heart and wrote it on the page.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I find I'm mostly alone on this but I feel a distance between me and poetry like it's too personal for me to view no matter where I'm seeing it or how much I enjoy it. Millay's words completely betray this feeling, I understood and gushed over the poems. I borrowed a copy of this from the library but it looks like I'm definitely buying I need this on my shelf <3.
Oh, Modernism, old friend - how I've missed you and your whackadoodle self. I liked quite a few of these poems, but sometimes they felt a bit sing-songy to me, which I'm not a fan of. I think Millay can come off as overly dramatic at times (well, she is a poet). I wish there were more poems in her oeuvre like "The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver." Read my full review here.
Lara Selavka
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was my long-awaited return to poetry (I hadn't picked up a collection of poems since college, nearly a decade ago). Her earlier pieces have a very dreary, New England tone to them that I immediately loved. And as mentioned in other reviews, she relies heavily on nature, and our eventual return to it upon death. I am delighted to have picked this as my foray back into the world of poetry!
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I've enjoyed a book of poetry this much! I would strongly recommend this to anyone who wants to read some poetry but is looking for something a little more down to earth.

My favorite poems: Tavern, Sonnet VI: Bluebeard, First Fig and Second Fig, The Blue-Flag in the Bog, Travel
Elizabeth StClair
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think I've found my new favorite poet! I try to mark my favorite poems in every book, but it was so hard to choose only a few favorites from this one. Will definitely give this one another read soon.
Carlton Moore
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
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!
Suzanne Hess
Aug 18, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Only four poems were worth reading.
Stephen Howard
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, modernism, c20
Read: Renascence and Other Poems (1917), A Few Figs from Thistles (1921), "The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver" (1924).
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
ok but sonnets are so amazing??
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Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work.

This famous portrait of Vincent (as she was called by friends) was taken by Carl Van Vechten in 1933.
“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.”
“She is happy where she lies
With the dust upon her eyes.”
More quotes…