One hundred and thirty years ago today Edna St. Vincent Millay – a remarkable, sometimes scandalous, and always brilliant poet, was born in Rockland, Maine. Twenty-five years later she moved to Greenwich Village, where she and my grandfather Floyd Dell – a brilliant, sometimes scandalous, writer himself–fell in love. (At least this is how Floyd remembered it!) But when he asked her to marry him, fortunately for me, she refused. And Floyd married my grandmother instead.
Although Edna St. Vincent Millay died the year before I was born, her ghost hovered in the rafters of every house I ever lived in as a child: In my grandparents’ cramped row house in Washington, D.C., where Floyd would recite Millay’s poetry at the end of every big family meal, in the ramshackle farm house where we spent summers in New Hampshire and Floyd would channel his young self as he read Millay’s poetry aloud to our friends and neighbors, in my parents’ house in Bethesda, Maryland, where my mother — young and romantic when she married into the Dell family – memorized at least a dozen sonnets by Millay and kept almost every book of poetry Millay wrote on the shelf next to her bed . . . all her life.