Poem #4: I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  I love her poetry.  Reading her poems always makes me feel good.  Even if she is talking about death! It’s just the way she puts things, the way she writes.  So lyrical and yet accessible.  The emotions her poetry elicits are immediate. You will never ask how you are supposed to feel. A smile just forms across your lips.

Enjoy this one!

I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, – let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

– by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Utterly delicious! Millay uses the familiar words of sexual conquest, words often used to the disadvantage of women.  And she co-opts the classic, sexist woman/man conflict of passion vs brains, ‘my stout blood against my staggering brain”,  she is both. She yields but to herself.  And then she exits, gloriously,

You can find out more about her and other poets at Poets.org, operated by the Academy of American Poets.

Have you read any poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay? How do you assess her writing?



  1. +JMJ+

    I just love Edna St. Vincent-Millay’s poetry, even though I think she wasn’t a very nice person.

    It falls so trippingly off the tongue, and yet is as easy to understand as “straight” speech. I never have to reread one of her poems to understand it–and yet each poem I’ve found has been worth multiple readings. This one is no exception.

    The sharp wit at the end of this poem is very powerful. I love the speaker’s voice!

    PS–I found you on the Blog Hop! =)


  2. Wow. I have been going through my Google Reader leaving up the posts I want to comment on and I keep coming back to this one but I don’t know what to say! I love the poem, but don’t know what to say or think, it has me all confused. Does that make sense? I hadn’t read anything by Edna St. Vincent Millay before, and am interested to read more.


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