After reading Nancy Milford's extraordinarily fascinating tome, Savage Beauty, about the great American poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, i've become deeply transfixed with the story of this brilliant bohemian, who lived her life with dramatic élan. After winning the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a woman for poetry, she became the most famous person in America, and her readings in the 1920s were more like rock shows . . . with screams for encores, and young fans swarming around just to breathe-in her velvet-clad ethereal air.
Most of her life was spent high atop a hill in Austerlitz, NY, at Steepletop . . . the beloved farm estate (named after a wildflower), where she resided with her husband, Eugen Boissevain, until her passing. It is a National Historic Landmark that has been turned into a museum, along with an old barn that is now the Millay Colony for the Arts, as per the wishes of Vincent (as she preferred to be called) and her sister, Norma Millay Ellis, who oversaw the estate until 1986.
Norma made sure that every detail in the home was exactly as Vincent left it, much to the joy of devotees, like me. Mr. Taylor and I took our dear friends Doris and Joe to tour the house and its verdant grounds on October 17th, the day before the anniversary of her passing. It was terribly moving to stand in her boudoir, looking at her little glass pill bottles and travel souvenirs, and even more wondrous was her private library, filled with thousands of first editions, each one well-loved, and in the middle of the room, a blanketed chaise, and a funny little hand-painted "silent" sign hanging from the ceiling. We all sighed when it was time to exit, as none of us ever wanted to leave.
Yet the most intense experience for me, was Vincent's stunning Poet's Trail, where she and Eugen frequently rambled, and where both their spirits were eventually laid to rest, along with her beloved mother and muse, Cora Millay. On the chilly Fall day when we visited, travelling down her well-worn path, covered with Technicolor leaves, acorns, and bright green moss, I really felt as if I were walking in a dream. And when we arrived at Vincent and Eugen's memorial, the tears began to roll. It would be impossible for any visitor not to feel the poignancy of this artist's life.
All photos (except Vincent the witch): © Nic & J.B. Taylor