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(1912-1995 / Belgium)

Quotations

  • ''May we agree that private life is irrelevant? Multiple, mixed, ambiguous at best—out of it we try to fashion the crystal clear, the singular, the absolute, and that is what is relevant; that is what matters.''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
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  • ''The woman who needs to create works of art is born with a kind of psychic tension in her which drives her unmercifully to find a way to balance, to make herself whole. Every human being has this need: in the artist it is mandatory. Unable to fulfill it, he goes mad. But when the artist is a woman she fulfills it at the expense of herself as a woman.''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
  • ''The poet must be free to love or hate as the spirit moves him, free to change, free to be a chameleon, free to be an enfant terrible. He must above all never worry about his effect on other people. Power requires that one do just that all the time. Power requires that the inner person never be unmasked. No, we poets have to go naked. And since this is so, it is better that we stay private people; a naked public person would be rather ridiculous, what?''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
  • ''It is the privilege of those who fear love to murder those who do not fear it!''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
  • ''A man with a talent does what is expected of him, makes his way, constructs, is an engineer, a composer, a builder of bridges. It's the natural order of things that he construct objects outside himself and his family. The woman who does so is aberrant.... We have to expiate for this cursed talent someone handed out to us, by mistake, in the black mystery of genetics.''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
  • ''The creative person, the person who moves from an irrational source of power, has to face the fact that this power antagonizes. Under all the superficial praise of the "creative" is the desire to kill. It is the old war between the mystic and the nonmystic, a war to the death.''
    May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist. Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
  • ''The secret breathed within
    And never spoken, woken
    By music; the garlands in
    Her hands no one has seen.
    She wreathes the air with green
    and weaves the stillness in.''
    May Sarton (1912-1995), U.S. poet, novelist, and memoirist. "The Clavichord," lines 13-18 (1948).
  • ''... intensity commands form.''
    May Sarton (1912-1995), U.S. author. As quoted in Women Writers Talking, ch. 1, by Janet Todd (1983). Referring to formal poetry, as distinguished from free verse.
  • ''... the reason why there are so few first-class poets is that many people have intense feelings or first-class minds but to get the two together so that you will be willing to put a poem through sixty drafts, to be that self-critical, to keep breaking it down, that is what is rare. Right now most poetry is just self-indulgence.''
    May Sarton (1912-1995), U.S. author. As quoted in Women Writers Talking, ch. 1, by Janet Todd (1983).
  • ''When one's not writing poems—and I'm not at the moment—you wonder how you ever did it. It's like another country you can't reach.''
    May Sarton (1912-1995), U.S. author. As quoted in Women Writers Talking, ch. 1, by Janet Todd (1983).

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First Snow

This is the first soft snow
That tiptoes up to your door
As you sit by the fire and sew,
That sifts through a crack in the floor
And covers your hair with hoar.
This is the stiffening wound
Burning the heart of a deer
Chased by a moon-white hound,
This is the hunt, and the queer

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