Millay vs Hughes

I’ve been reading biographies of two major US poets: Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes. Both very eye-opening as to the differences between the poetry worlds of that time era as well as to the ‘private’ actual lives of these poets.

tree01 blues skies

Millay was/is perhaps one of the best selling poets in the US in the last century. I’m not sure where one finds real poetry sales stats. By the end of the 1830’s she was one of the most popular writers in the States. I have little familiarity with her writing outside of pieces in various anthologies or what I may read in high-school. I always regarded her as sort of prissy writer with a greeting-card-sentiment style. More the fault of those anthologies that my lack of reading.

Her life proved to be an amazing soap opera, with deeply troubled family dynamics and personal relationships. Lesbian affairs in university, a husband who encouraged her affairs with other me during their marriage, plus a descent into addiction & alcoholism. She lived a rich life.

tree03 bed in the bushes

She was writing and being successful at the same time as Langston Hughes – yet there seems to have been no interaction between their literary worlds. Both travelled Europe at the same time. Both published to growing acclaim in the USA, got caught up in political issues. One was white the other black. Perhaps this was why but it seems odd that the two worlds were so insular.

tree02 lost in the trees

The Hughes biography is huge – two volumes & I’m part way through the first one. The extent of his travels amazed me – over a year in Russia and the far east, time in Cuba too. The growth of his reputation and how it was almost lost to politics (was he a Communist?). A fascinating look at the Harlem literary scene and the political infighting there. The biograqpher is so determined that Hughes was not, gasp, a homosexual, he manages, as regular intervals, to have some one say directly ‘There was never indication that Langston was a homosexual.’ After the fourth or fifth time this happened I saw the biographer had issues as deeply repressive as Hughes.

I find it amusing to see how open the Millay biography was about her emotional life with others while the Hughes biography does the best it can to smudge over any hint that Hughes might have actually had an emotional life with others.


April 21, Monday – featuring – Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club – 7:30 – doors and open mic sign up, 8:00 – start

April 27, Sunday – attending – Julie Czerndea Workshop

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville, Ont

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada



something didn’t fit

he tried to fit

it was as if he was the wrong piece

in the wrong puzzle

they were the ones who didn’t want him to fit

with those simpering smiles

smiles of friendships   of faked feelings

smiles that vanished when he came into view

smiles that changed to curls of the lip

how you doing asshole? they would ask

he’d walk past them

past the laugher that would follow

got your note to get out of gym, faggot

more laugher

even with friends

the same remarks

would come sharp out of the air to follow them

The Faggot Club   The Holy Gropers

what was it to them anyway

he didn’t fit their world they didn’t fit in his

something didn’t fit

TV families found solutions in 22 minutes

school wasn’t supposed to be

a jigsaw puzzle of a million pieces

a million different puzzles

his piece didn’t fit

but the piece

he carried in his coat

would put an end to it all

the natural solution

kill them

kill them all

shoot the simpering smiles off their smug faces

blast them back to the pallid hell they came from

the pallid hell

they didn’t want him to be a part of

The pallid tedium he wasn’t interested in being a part of anyway

he’d show them

ethnic cleansing they call it

he’d clean the school of them

teach them there was a repercussion to spite

it was the manly solution

that would prove he was no faggot

that he was no more asshole than they were

tell them that even if they were right

he had bigger balls than any of them

the piece

was comfortable warm

beneath his coat

a few pulls of the trigger

their smiles would disappear

who would be first

why bother picking

anyone of them would do

he walked up the steps to the school

a giggle group silenced as he passed by

hey where’s the rest of the faggot gang?

one asked as he walked by

he turned


the piece slid out so smoothly

erect hard firm

the trigger action silent fast

the four them dropped screaming

thanks for asking he walked on

leaving them

the city

the school

to enjoy the answer

4 thoughts on “Millay vs Hughes

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