Book Report: Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1954)

Book coverAh, gentle reader. I was going to lead off by saying “I’ve already read this book,” but you might remember that. I read it in 2006, which is slightly more recently than I read Blood Relatives. But this 2024 Winter Reading Challenge is proving not only to be a year of Bowlderized (or merely edited) books, questionable category assignments, and re-reads. I will note that this copy, which I bought in 2022 for $1, which is better than the ex library book First Edition for which I paid $10 and read in 2006.

At any rate, this book was compiled by Millay’s sister after her death (as I mentioned). Some of the poems are polished, as she might have been gathering some for publication before her death. Some are not. Millay experiments with free verse, but without a lot of what makes free verse palatable to me–good rhythm, internal rhymes, and alliteration–but I write free verse for performance at open mics (not that I have done an open mic in 20 years). Instead, it’s words laid out on a page without rhyme and with some obscure meaning and discrete images that don’t hold together too well.

But it has some sonnets as well, and Millay is at her best in the tighter confines of traditional structures. Her structured poetry looks pretty effortless and almost conversational, and they’re short and often poignant. And these are not her best sonnets.

The poems overall deal with death and remembering the past than love (although she touched on these subjects in the past). Millay died in 1950, a year after her long-time husband (who died of lung cancer, which might have taken some time although not as long as it can with modern treatments). So one can understand where her mind might have been immediately before her death. Her Wikipedia entry indicates she might have been in chronic pain after a 1936 automobile accident as well, so, yeah. Not bright and cheery poetry, but the book contains a lot of birds, flowers, and trees landscape poetry.

So not my favorite of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s work, but I am probably growing into it more than shouting “Love! Though for this you riddle me with darts!” at a half-empty coffeehouse (I guess I am telling the same old stories over and over again as I read books over and over again, ainna? Is this my dotage already?).

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