What style of poem is "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" by Edna St. Vincent Millay?

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Millay's poem is sonnet, a poem of fourteen lines, written in an elegiac style. An elegy is a lament, usually for the dead or to regret a loss.

In the sonnet, Millay mourns her aloneness, and, implicitly, her aging. In the first octet (eight lines) she is remembering the many loves she once had, so many she can't remember them. She is regretting not remembering them, but more profoundly, that they are "ghosts" who will not come again. As she puts it, she feels a "pain":

For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
In the sestet or last six lines of the poem, she compares herself to a tree in winter that is "lonely." Just as she has gradually lost her lovers, so the tree has one by one lost its songbirds, until it is all alone.
Millay uses conventional metaphors or comparisons to make an emotional point about loneliness and age: winter, for example, is traditionally associated with getting old and dying. But despite the conventional imagery, the stark, simple words carry emotional weight as they convey her pain and loneliness.
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This poem is an Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet. This means that it is written in iambic pentameter: each line has five feet, each foot consisting of two syllables (for a total of ten syllables per line), one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable. It also has fourteen lines, but it is split into an octave (a section consisting of eight lines) and a sestet (a section consisting of six lines). In an Italian sonnet, the octave can present a question and the sestet an answer, or the octave can offer a claim while the sestet offers an example, etc. In this poem, the speaker presents her emotional state in the octave: she is remembering, sadly, "unremembered lads that not again / Will turn to me at midnight with a cry." She is lonely and sad, thinking of her lost loves that will never return. Then, the sestet presents a metaphor that illustrates this feeling: the "lonely tree" is the speaker and the "birds [who] have vanished one by one" are her lost loves. Just as summer passes and the tree becomes lonely, so has the speaker's own "summer" gone by, and she is now alone.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed and Where and Why" is a sonnet. A sonnet is a poem with fourteen lines; there are usually ten syllables in each line, and the poem is written in iambic pentameter.

Iambic pentameter refers to how a line of poetry is constructed. In a poem, each line consists of stressed and unstressed syllables: this is the meter of a poem. A foot is made up of either two of three syllables. If the foot has two syllables that proceed in an unstressed/stressed pattern, we call this an iamb. So, a line written in iambic pentameter will have five sets of unstressed and stressed syllables. Let's take a look at the first four lines of the sonnet in question:

What(unstressed) lips (stressed)/ my (unstressed) lips (stressed)/ have (unstressed) kissed (stressed),/ and (unstressed) where (stressed),/ and (unstressed) why (stressed),/

I have/ forgot/ten, and /what arms /have lain/

Under/ my head/ till morn/ing; but/ the rain/

Is full/ of ghosts/ tonight,/ that tap/ and sigh/

So, you can see there are five metrical feet in each line. Each line also proceeds in an unstressed/stressed pattern, which makes this a poem written in iambic pentameter.

Also, it looks like the poem in question is an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. The Italian sonnet is usually divided into an octave (with eight lines having a rhyme scheme of abbaabba) and a sestet (with six lines having a variable rhyme scheme of either cdecde, cdedce, cdcdcd, or another—the pattern is flexible).

Hope this helps!

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