Book Review: A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by Krystyna Poray Goddue

This biography came to me highly recommended by Miss Katy, the Head of Children’s Services.  I loved reading about the poet’s life and work, and more about the specifics of her ties to Maine. Like Miss Katy, I also feel compelled to recommend the title to others.

Because it’s a children’s book, it’s a relatively quick read. But don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t learn much because of the target audience.  This slim, 175-page volume covers her life from beginning to end, sometimes in fascinating detail. 

Here are just a few things I didn’t know:

  • “Vincent” was a published poet by the age of 14; by age 15 she had won a national poetry prize and received critical attention from editors and writers (many of whom could not believe how young she was, or that she was a female).  
  • She was also an accomplished actress and musician, and lived quite the Bohemian lifestyle in New York City after her graduation from Vassar. She had a flair for the dramatic, whether she was reading poetry, performing, or fighting for a cause. 
  • Her early family life was both challenging and liberating. She was raised in a single-parent household in relative poverty in and around Rockland, Maine. Her mother traveled to take on available nursing jobs, and often left Vincent in charge of the household and her two younger sisters for weeks and even months at a time.  As a result, she grew up independent and free-spirited.
  • She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (in 1923); in 1938 a national poll declared her one of the ten most famous women in America!

The book has so much information about her life, her schooling, her marriage and later life, as well as lots of history about her poems and poetry. There are many excellent photographs that accompany the text. I really didn’t understand what an important national figure she was in the literary world during her lifetime – she was not just a “Maine poet.”

 The book is thoroughly researched and presented: there are ten pages of chapter notes, recommended biographies, and a list of all of her works: poetry, prose, and plays.  

Extend National Poetry Month by reading this great little biography.  Enjoy!

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