You may know Edna St. Vincent Millay as one of the premier figures in 20th century American literature, as a feminist in post-World War I’s Greenwich Village scene, as the author of the line, “My candle burns at both ends,” but you may not know about her Hudson Valley connection: The Pulitzer-Prize winning poet is a Vassar College alumna.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Millay’s graduation — and her 125th birthday — the college is collaborating with The Millay Society on an exhibit of artifacts and photos at the college’s Thompson Memorial Library and Millay’s Columbia County farm, Steepletop.
“She gave women a voice in poetry that they hadn’t had before,” Holly Peppe, literary executor for Millay, said in a recent Library Café talk about the exhibit on WVKR radio. “What’s edgy about her poetry is that she adopted female sexuality as one of her themes. She emboldened women by allowing them to become the subject, rather than the object, in her poems.”
The Vassar exhibit runs through June 11 and is being curated by Mark O’Berski, vice president of The Millay Society. What makes it unique is that it is delineated according to the seasons — a rhythm that Millay often honored in many of her poems. It includes candid photos of life at Steepletop, excerpts from Millay’s letters, first edition books, and — of course — poems relevant to the particular season. (124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie; 845.437.7400; www.vassar.edu)
At Steepletop, in the hamlet of Austerlitz, Vassar is showcasing artifacts from its private collection from May through October (436 E Hill Rd, Austerlitz; 518.392.3362; www.millay.org).