ROCKLAND — On Sunday, Feb. 21, the Farnsworth Art Museum hosts a 129th birthday celebration for Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. The special event, titled “Edna St. Vincent Millay: Balancing Grief & Renewal,” will take place on Zoom beginning at 1:30 p.m., and will feature Maine poets reading letters and poems that focus on Millay’s explorations of loss and renewal. The event is free and open to the public.

Poets will also read their own poems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, personal loss, and the threat of global climate change. Millay began writing “Renascence” in 1911, when she was 19 and caring for her ailing father in Kingman, Maine. “Renascence,” which moves between life and death and ends with a sense of hope and revival, was the first poem to catapult Millay to stardom, winning fourth place in “The Lyric Year” anthology in 1912. This year’s annual birthday reading will focus on Millay’s poems that mediate a balance between grief and renewal of hope, such as those from her third collection, “Second Spring,” which includes an elegy for Millay’s Vassar classmate who died from the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.

Edna St. Vincent Millay photographed in 1914 in Mamaroneck, New York. Genthe photograph collection, Library of Congress

Born in Rockland on Feb. 22, 1892, Millay is one of 13 Women of Vision being honored by the Farnsworth in 2021 with the Maine in America award, annually presented by the Farnsworth to an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.

Prior to the readings, there will be an introduction to the life of Millay by Farnsworth curator Jane Bianco and an illustrated presentation on the ongoing restoration of the Millay House Rockland, Millay’s childhood home, by Ann Morris, president of the board of directors.

Featured poets include: Kathleen Ellis, Host; Stuart Kestenbaum; François Amar; Carol Bachofner; Ellen Goldsmith; Annaliese Jakimides; Bria Lamonica; Gary Lawless; Kristen Lindquist; Claire Millikin; Wendy Satin Rapaport; Elizabeth Tibbetts. For more information or to register for the event, please visit farnsworthmuseum.org/event/millay-2021/.


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