by Edna St. Vincent Millay
In A Nutshell
Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the leading literary lights of the twentieth century. (Look at us being all alliterative.) She's right up there with Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot – although, like Frost, she moved away from the dense symbolism and epic storylines that made the modernist poets so, so happy.
Instead, Millay chose to document the emotional impact of tiny moments: the everyday occurrences that add depth and significance to life. Of course, her life was a bit more exciting than most – which is perhaps why her poems don't go on and on about things like stone fences between pastures. (No offense, Robert.)
St. Vincent Millay was a pretty extraordinary woman: raised by her mother, who left Millay's deadbeat dad, Millay grew up in a home full of sisters. She got a scholarship to Vassar – which was a pretty big deal in those days (the early 1900s), since women didn't tend to get college degrees. Oh, and she started publishing in children's magazines during high school. As it turned out, those poems were good enough to get attention from the editors of big-people magazines. By the time she left college, she was well on her way to being one of the country's most talked-about poets.
Oh, and did we mention her torrid love life? It's the stuff of made-for-TV movies. Or at least a few Sex and the City episodes. After bowling over just about every man and woman in the literary world, Millay eventually married a business man named Eugen Jan Boissevain. We're guessing that she just needed a break from all of that poetic genius!
Oh, and did we mention that she won a Pulitzer Prize? She did. In 1923. Which was a pretty big deal, since the early twentieth century isn't exactly known as a time where women's achievements were recognized!
So: educated, amorous, and beloved by readers everywhere? Sounds like our kind of life! Now, go read "Recuerdo," one of St. Vincent Millay's most famous poems, which she published in 1919.
Why Should I Care?
You know how there are some moments that you just know will be important for the rest of your life? They're probably absolutely trivial moments. You'd never read about them in history books or see them in a TV show. Heck, they'd probably never even get onto reality TV.
Nonetheless, they're the moments that shape your life – like that time when a cute girl taught you how to play pool…or that day when you spent all day watching Gossip Girl re-runs with your sister. (Don't worry, we won't tell anyone.) As it turns out, the really special moments in your life aren't ones that are necessarily about anything important at all. They're just the ones that make you happy.
And that's what "Recuerdo" is about: it's a combination of the absolutely trivial and the absolutely essential. It's a combination of all the little nothings that make a date (or even a night out) one of the best moments in your life.
So why bother with reading someone else's good memories? Well, for one thing, they're a reminder of just how little you need to make a good night. A couple of rides on a ferry and a piece of fruit? That's a cheap date!