May Sarton Poetry: American Poets Analysis
“We have to make myths of our lives,” May Sarton says in Plant Dreaming Deep. “It is the only way to live them without despair.” Of the many modern American women poets who are also mythmakers, Sarton speaks often and most urgently about what it means to be a woman and a writer and about the female muse as a primary source of poetic inspiration. In the fourth “Autumn Sonnet” from A Durable Fire, she describes the crucial relationship between the woman poet and her muse, that elusive force whose function is “to help me tame the wildness in my blood,/ To bring the struggling poet safely home.”
As “sister of the mirage and echo,” Sarton’s muse parallels in some respects the quasi-erotic, mystical woman invoked by Robert Graves in The White Goddess (1948), “she whom I desired above all things to know.” For Sarton as for Graves, the muse is also a demoniac “shadow,” a crucial Medusa-self against whom the poet must struggle and yet through whom she is able ultimately to transform her “wildness” into vital creative energy. For Sarton as for Hilary Stevens, the central character in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, the muse “destroys as well as gives life, does not nourish, pierces, forces one to discard, renew, be born again. Joy and agony are pivoted in her presence.”
Sarton was a poet who never failed life. Her fierce and complex explorations of the creative process,...
(The entire section is 4963 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of May Sarton Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!