Study Guide

Recuerdo

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recuerdo Introduction

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.

What is Recuerdo About and 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!

Recuerdo Resources

Websites

Modern American Poetry On Millay's Works
Sure, "Recuerdo" doesn't actually appear on this site, but you can get a pretty good sense of smart people's readings of Millay's works here.

Calling All Millay Fans
So you feel that you need to "preserve Millay's legacy for the future," eh? Well, then, this is the website for you.

Need A Millay Bibliography?
This site's done your work for you! Check out starting research points here.

Poetry Foundation
A biography of Millay, plus links to some of her poems.

Video

Wow. That's All We Can Say.
Someone loves Edna so much that they decided to make her lips (and eyebrows!) move while they read "Recuerdo." It's beyond creepy.

Audio

Pretty Much Everyone Reads "Recuerdo"
In fact, nine people read the poem here. No, none of them is Millay. But check it out anyway.

Images

Edna St. Vincent Millay
We're not saying that this image was totally staged. Nope, she just happened to lean oh-so-casually into a magnolia tree. Of course.

Another Picture
Here's another picture of Millay as a young woman.

Books

First Fig and Other Poems
Read the collection that won Millay the Pulitzer!

A Pretty Fabulous Biography
We know it can't be too hard to write an interesting bio of Millay, since she led such an interesting life, but this biography is actually a good read.

Movies & TV

Hitler's Madmen, Millay's Screenplay
St. Vincent Millay wrote a screenplay detailing the craziness of the SS. Check it out here.