Tuesday, May 06, 2008

From May 3rd: Poem by May Sarton and her Birthday

Below is the information from the Writer’s Almanac of May 3rd. I recently read Margo Peters’ biography of May Sarton which was delightful though I don’t think that I wrote about it in a substantive way. Peters does a thoughtful assessment of Sarton’s work and a well-researched biography. I consider it now a model for some things that I want to do.
"Fruit of Loneliness" by May Sarton, from Encounter in April. © Houghton Mifflin, 1937. (buy now) 

Fruit of Loneliness 

Now for a little I have fed on loneliness
As on some strange fruit from a frost-touched vine—
Persimmon in its yellow comeliness,
Of pomegranate-juice color of wine,
The pucker-mouth crab apple, or late plum—
On fruit of loneliness have I been fed.
But now after short absence I am come
Back from felicity to the wine and bread.
For, being mortal, this luxurious heart
Would starve for you, my dear, I must admit,
If it were held another hour apart
From that food which alone can comfort it—
I am come home to you, for at the end
I find I cannot live without you, friend.


It's the birthday of poet and novelist May Sarton, (books by this author) born in Wondelgem, Belgium (1912), the daughter of science historian George Sarton and artist Mabel Elwes Sarton. When she was four, her family fled Belgium to escape invading Germans and eventually settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Sarton attended the progressive Shady Hill School and learned poetry from Agnes Hocking.
She graduated from high school, declined a scholarship offer to Vassar, and moved to New York City to be an apprentice at Eva Le Galienne's Civic Repertory Theatre. She moved to Paris when she was 19, then returned to the States and wrote poetry, supporting herself by teaching in Boston, writing film scripts for the Office of War Information, and lecturing on poetry at various college campuses.
Her first book of poems, Encounter in April, came out in 1937 and included a series of sonnets that had been published in Poetry magazine when she was just 17. Over the course of 60 years, she had an incredibly prolific career, publishing about 50 books, including 19 novels, more than a dozen poetry collections, several volumes of journals, and two children's books.
One of her most influential works was Journal of a Solitude (1973), which became important reading for feminists and a primary text in woman's studies courses. Critic Carolyn Heilbrun said, "I would name 1972 as the turning point for modern women's autobiography … the publication of Journal of a Solitude in 1973 may be acknowledged as the watershed in women's autobiography."
Even after a stroke in her mid-70s, she continued to compose and publish; she recorded onto a tape cassette Endgame: A Journal of the Seventy-Ninth Year (1992) and dictated Encore: A Journal of the Eightieth Year (1993). In her final book, At Eighty-Two: A Journal (1995), which was published the year she died, she said she felt like a "stranger in the land of old age."
She said, "One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being."

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