Dear Friends of Millay
As the world closed down last spring, we invited you to join the Millay Poetry Challenge and introduced you to some unique natural inhabitants of Steepletop who were blissfully carrying on with life as usual. For the rest of us, it was a year of making adjustments and coping with both challenges and losses.
Thankfully, the future is looking brighter every day. This winter we once again reached out to poetry lovers with a new challenge, this time to “Show Us Your Millay” by sharing a photo of their personal library of Millay books and memorabilia. People shared images of their garden shrines, the Millay books on their shelves and many other wonderful artifacts, such as letters and special editions of her work. You can view the collections on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Millay’s own library at Steepletop, which exists intact, just as the poet left it, is perhaps the most priceless treasure on the property. It serves as both a testament to Millay’s process and an inspiration for each of us in our own creative lives. It is located on the second floor in the center of the house, with windows facing south and west, and built-in wooden shelves packed with more than 3,000 volumes that represent the poet’s wide range of interests, fueled by her insatiable curiosity.
Millay divided her library into sections: one devoted to research consists of large reference books in several languages, along with her collection of horse racing journals. Others include social studies; literature and poetry; the classics; and popular paperback mysteries in French. It’s a welcoming room, with a stuffed armchair and daybed for reading and resting. Many volumes carry inscriptions from authors who were friends. Images that inspired her line the walls of the room: a small portrait of Shelley; an Edward Weston photograph of her good friend, the poet Robinson Jeffers; a painting of Sappho; and an etching of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. A small wooden hand-painted sign demanding “SILENCE” hangs from the center of the ceiling, reminding visitors that this is a place meant for thought and solitude.
We hope you will join us and the many other poetry lovers who serve as ambassadors for Millay by helping us protect the site where so much of her artistry was created. As we learned from the response to our online “Show Us Your Millay” challenge, many of our Friends understand the dire need to preserve American literary history and culture.
If you are able to support The Society and Steepletop by making a gift at any level, it will be greatly appreciated. As thanks for your gift of any amount, we will proudly add your name to our roster of 2021 Friends of Millay. (Given our reduced staff, we ask you make your donation online at millay.org. If you prefer, you may fill out the enclosed envelope with your donation and return it to us.)
Though Steepletop remains closed to the public, we are continuing to work on modest restoration projects in accordance with New York State restrictions. Restoration work to the interior of the 1948 kitchen, mentioned in our last communication, started over the winter months, and two new custom pillars were crafted to replace rotted ones on the front porch. Plans to rebuild the Pergola over the bar area in the Ruins are in development as funds allow. In the infinite online world of Millay, we are also looking to upgrade and better optimize our website in the coming year. Finally, we are still actively engaged in discussions regarding a long-term partner for Steepletop who can assist with the maintenance of the buildings and gardens and open our doors to the public once again.
In the meantime, we invite you to visit millay.org and download the inspiring image of Millay’s library to use as a virtual background for your Zoom screen!
Lift this little book,
Turn the tattered pages,
Read me, do not let me die !
Search the fading letters, finding
Steadfast in the broken binding
All that once was I !
Boys and girls that lie
Whispering in the hedges,
Do not let me die,
Mix me with your pledges;
Boys and girls that slowly walk
In the woods, and weep, and quarrel,
Staring past the pink wild laurel,
Mix me with your talk,
Do not let me die!
Excerpts from “The Poet and His Book” from Second April (1921) E.St.V.M.
Vincent Elizabeth Barnett