Teasdale’s early popularity is reflected in her winning the first Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918, an award that would later be called the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her work was especially liked for its lyrical style and musical rhythm, and it was received equally well by male critics as well as by female critics, even though the subjects were often sensitive and sentimental. At least two critics who reviewed Flame and Shadow shortly after it was published found the collection stronger than her previous work, although similar in theme and tone. Writing for The Bookman, reviewer Louis Untermeyer claims the book
is by no means a series of facile melodies that live only to be set to music or to fill a page. . . . Here are new rhythms, far more subtle than those she has ever employed; here are words chosen with a keener sense of their actual as well as their musical value.
Mark Van Doren, writing for the Nation, admonishes Teasdale for still being tempted “to deal exclusively in stock love-lyric materials,” but praises the poems that go beyond her typical theme: “Sara Teasdale only reaches her perfection when, defeating her temptations, she interpenetrates pain with metaphor and metaphor with pain, when she finds the proper balance between fire and form.”
Because Flame and Shadow contains a section of poems addressing World War I and such meditative themes as human self-destruction and nature’s beauty versus mankind’s ugliness, critics claimed that this book demonstrated a growth in Teasdale’s intellectual work and philosophical thought. Ironically, the development of her artistry paralleled her deepening depression, and the more she centered her poetry on pessimistic themes, the more her own self-examination left her distraught and disillusioned. After Teasdale’s suicide in 1933, her work...
(The entire section is 440 words.)