Biography of May Sarton
May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton (May 3, 1912 – July 16, 1995), an American poet, novelist, and memoirist.
Sarton was born in Wondelgem, Belgium (today a part of the city of Ghent). Her parents were science historian George Sarton and his wife, the English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes. When German troops invaded Belgium after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, her family fled to Ipswich, England where Sarton's maternal grandmother lived. One year later, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts. She went to school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating from Cambridge High and Latin School in 1929. She started theatre lessons in her late teens, but continued writing poetry, eventually publishing her first collection in 1937 entitled Encounter in April.
In 1945 she met her partner for the next thirteen years, Judy Matlack, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They separated in 1956, when Sarton's father died and Sarton moved to Nelson, New Hampshire. Honey in the Hive (1988) is about their relationship. In her memoir At Seventy, she reflected on Judy's importance in her life and how her Unitarian Universalist upbringing shaped her.
Sarton later moved to York, Maine. In 1990, she suffered a stroke, severely reducing her ability to concentrate and write. After several months, she was able to dictate her final journals, which celebrated the joys of her life. She died of breast cancer on July 16, 1995, and is buried in Nelson, New Hampshire.
May Sarton Poems
Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself. It's taken Time, many years and places; I have been dissolved and shaken, Worn other people's faces,
Leaves Before The Wind
We have walked, looked at the actual trees: The chestnut leaves wide-open like a hand, The beech leaves bronzing under every breeze,
When A Woman Feels Alone
‘When a woman feels alone, when the room is full of daemons,” the Nootka tribe Tells us, ‘The Old Woman will be there.”
The Phoenix Again
On the ashes of this nest Love wove with deathly fire The phoenix takes its rest Forgetting all desire.
Who wakes now who lay blind with sleep? Who starts bright-eyed with anger from his bed? I do. I, the plain citizen. I cannot sleep.
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
(from) The Invocation To Kali
There are times when I think only of killing The voracious animal who is my perpetual shame,
A Country Incident
Absorbed in planting bulbs, that work of hope, I was startled by a loud human voice, “Do go on working while I talk. Don’t stop!”
For My Mother
Once more I summon you Out of the past With poignant love,
Before going to bed After a fall of snow I look out on the field Shining there in the moonlight
The Phoenix Again
On the ashes of this nest
Love wove with deathly fire
The phoenix takes its rest
Forgetting all desire.
After the flame, a pause,
After the pain, rebirth.
Obeying nature’s laws
The phoenix goes to earth.