Sonnet Bake-off: One week to go

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Into the golden vessel of great song
Let us pour all our passion; breast to breast
Let other lovers lie, in love and rest;
Not we, - articulate, so, but with the tongue
Of all the world . . .
Edna St. Vincent Millay

In a half-forgotten box in my parents’ attic, there is an old black and white photograph of my sister Debby and me sitting on the lawn of the Vassar College campus, Poughkeepsie, NY, circa 1954. On the back of the picture, my mother wrote those many years ago, “My daughters went to Vassar.” Even then, with her own dreams of higher education dashed because of financial hardship, she was dreaming for her girls.

Well, we moved from Poughkeepsie back to Pennsylvania after my father got ill, and eventually both Debby and I graduated from other universities. But years later, I read of someone who did call Vassar her Alma Mater – Edna St. Vincent Millay, who died a few weeks before I was born; whose sonnets (I will probably be maligned and scorned and otherwise badly thought of) I find to be among the most beautiful and beautifully crafted poems of all time.

My old red Washington Square Press paperback edition of Millay’s Collected Sonnets, purchased for 60 cents in 1969, and which is dry-rot, yellow and dog-eared (not to mention marked in most of the margins) has been a constant companion these forty years, especially during my many dark times (the little blue companion volume of her Collected Lyrics is similarly yellow with age, but not quite as worn).

I have drunk freely from Millay's “golden vessel of great song”, perhaps too many times to mention. It is mainly to her standards that I hold the bake-off entries: The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong.

Love & Peace,
Cathy