Lit Nerd Wednesday!
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
If there was one person destined to live in Greenwich Village it was poet Edna St. Vincent Millay — she was named after the now demolished hospital which saved her uncle’s life and her penchant for openly speaking her mind wherever and whenever, still a new thing for a woman of the Jazz Age let alone a female poet, pointed her to move there. Like many of her village contemporaries, she moved from place to place often due to income or lack thereof but it would be the shabby former stable on Bedford Street that she would call home.
Millay was born in Rockland, Maine and displayed a gift for prose at a young age. After graduating from Vassar College in 1917 she moved to New York City where she briefly dabbled in acting with the Provincetown Players while writing magazine articles under a pseudonym. In 1920 she published A Few Figs from Fistles — controversial at the time as it deeply explored feminism and female sexuality. Openly bisexual, she had many affairs and turned down proposals from men captivated by her infectious wit and strong personality, among them was writer and literary critic Edmund Wilson.
In 1923 she won the Pulitzer Prize for the The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver and around this time settled at 75 ½ Bedford Street with her husband, Eugen Jan Boissevain, in what was and still is the narrowest house in New York City. She picked a prime location to set up shop — a few doors down at 86 Bedford was the speakeasy Chumley’s, already an important gathering place for artists and writers of all walks of life. In 1925 she and her husband left the Village for upstate New York where they bought Steepletop, an old bluberry farm in Austerlitz. She died there in 1950.
Who: Edna St. Vincent Millay
Where: 75 1/2 Bedford Street