Allison MacKenzie: Coming of Age in Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Peyton Place 1956 novel by Grace Metalious

This look at the coming of age of Allison MacKenzie, one of the central characters of Peyton Place, the controversial 1956 novel by Grace Metalious, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Peyton Place is set in a small New England town where everyone knows everyone’s business. The inhabitants of Peyton Place seemed to have a lot more sex than other novels of the mid-fifties – more than the censors and many critics were prepared to put up with: the novel was banned in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1957 and in Rhode Island in 1959. Read More→

Selections from Songs of the Elder Sisters (the Therīgāthā)

Songs of the Elder Sisters

Songs of the Elder Sisters were composed during the Buddha’s lifetime, about 2,500 years ago. These women renounced home life and society, and joined the group of nuns founded by the Buddha. This selection of 14 poems from the Buddhist text known as the Therīgāthā were translated from Pāli by Francis Booth. See more of this translation of Songs of the Elder Sisters on Issuu.

These poignant songs are about loss of beauty, wealth and family, balanced by the greater gains of peace and wisdom through enlightenment in old age. All the songs are ascribed to particular women, whose names we know. They speak as individuals, not as wives, mothers and daughters. Read More→

Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (full text)

Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1917) was the first published collection by this eminent American poet. The book’s title reflects Millay’s 1912 poem of the same name, published when she was just nineteen, and still considered one of her finest. Here you’ll find the full text of this work.

From Dover, a recent publisher of this work that’s now in the public domain:

The poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) have been long admired for the lyric beauty that is especially characteristic of her early works. “Renascence,” the first of her poems to bring her public acclaim, was written when she was nineteen. Now one of the best-known American poems, it is a fervent and moving account of spiritual rebirth. Read More→

Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars by Francesca Wade

Square Hauntings

Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars by Francesca Wade (2020) sheds new light on fascinating female literary figures of twentieth century and their sojourns in the Bloomsbury district of London the interwar years. First, a brief description from the publisher:

“In the pivotal era between the two world wars, the lives of five remarkable women intertwined at this one address: modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and author and publisher Virginia Woolf. In an era when women’s freedoms were fast expanding, they each sought a space where they could live, love, and—above all—work independently.

With sparkling insight and a novelistic style, Francesca Wade sheds new light on a group of artists and thinkers whose pioneering work would enrich the possibilities of women’s lives for generations to come.” Read More→

Mina Loy and the “Crowd” — Modernists in 1920s Paris

Mina loy photo by Man Ray

Though not as well known today, Mina Loy was well entrenched in the modernist circles that included leading figures of arts and letters of the 1920s. This musing on Mina Loy and the “Crowd” is excerpted from Everybody I Can Think of Ever: Meetings That Made the Avant-Garde by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.

Mina Loy (1882 – 1966), who practiced both as a writer and visual artist, was a vital member of the group of creatives that launched the modernist movement. Born in Hampstead, London, she was a painter, poet, novelist, and playwright, and also achieved some renown as a lamp designer. Read More→

10 Spring-Themed Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay - young

This year, as spring approached I took on the perspective of Emily Dickinson and slowly, tentatively, began to believe that hope — “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul” — is real and possible. The poet that I instinctively read, and read again, was Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) and her observations on the spring season.

This bouquet of spring poetry that I culled from Millay’s poems seem to have a common thread: Millay is annoyed at spring’s exuberant beauty coming yearly, and becomes indifferent and slightly angry since nature’s exuberant beauty arrives when her heart is under torment once more and is experienced as something of an intrusion upon her grieving. Read More→

Wild Places Without a Man: H.D. and Bryher

Bryher, 1929

Towards the end of World War I, the American expatriate writer and poet Hilda Doolittle, H.D. met Annie Winifred Ellerman, known as Bryher. H.D. and Breyher became lovers and would remain intimate for the rest of H.D.’s life, supporting and sustaining each other and sharing the responsibility of parenting H.D.’s daughter Perdita.

However, theirs was not an exclusive partnership. Both took other lovers, and in 1921 Bryher entered into a marriage of convenience with the American writer and publisher Robert McAlmon. This arrangement enabled Bryher to keep her traditional family at arm’s length, and allowed McAlmon to use her wealth to set up his own press.

This excerpt, detailing the complex relationships of a circle of modernist literary figures, is from Everybody I Can Think of Ever: Meetings That Made the Avant-Garde by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission. Read More→

Brilliant Quotes by Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag in 1979 photo by Lynn Gilbert

To contemplate a quote, or a line from one of Susan Sontag’s (1930 – 2004) many essays or novels, will invariably have the reader pause and read the line or paragraph again. Quotes by Susan Sontag have the capability to change the reader’s perception about how we view our lives — especially in regards to art and our own cultural limitations and vanities.

My own literary daydream has been to visit a bookstore, most likely The Strand on Broadway and 12th Street in New York City, and Sontag would be my guide as we strolled the aisles. Sontag’s commitment to literature and art has made an imprint on my life. In my daydream, Sontag would be the one doing all of the talking — I could only contribute my appreciation with a nodding of my head. Read More→