Al Filreis convened Lisa New, Jane Malcolm, and Sophia DuRose to talk about two well-known sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay, “I Shall Forget You Presently” and “Love Is Not All.” “I Shall Forget You Presently” became widely available as one of the four sonnets presented at the end of the book A Few Figs from Thistles (first published in 1920). “Love Is Not All” of 1931 was in Millay’s collection of fifty-two sonnets, Fatal Interview. Both poems were performed by Millay in an undated recording we include on our Millay PennSound page.
Al Filreis traveled to Harvard University and was hosted for this on-the-road episode of PoemTalk by the staff of the Woodberry Poetry Room (WPR) in Lamont Library, where Lisa New, Rafael Campo, and WPR Director Christina Davis joined him for a conversation about Robert Lowell’s poem “Skunk Hour.” Probably Lowell’s most well-known poem, it was placed last in Life Studies (1959) but had been written first — and can be said to have inaugurated Lowell’s “looser” style, associated with his so-called “confessional” mode. When Lowell began composing “Skunk Hour,” he later recalled, “I felt that most of what I knew about writing was a hindrance.” Our conversation is taken up by the many conflicting aspects of that perceived hindrance. And on top of those there are, of course, the hindrances put up by the new, allegedly freeing style itself.