Edna St. Vincent Millay, born in 1892, was only the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (in 1923), and she is famous both for her feminist activism and also for her bisexuality and open marriage: her husband of twenty-six years was a self-proclaimed feminist who took on most domestic responsibilities so she could write. What’s not to love? Millay wrote openly about female sexuality, and in this poem she explores — nearly a hundred years before the rest of us started talking about booty calls and beer goggles, mind you — the idea of craving a man for his body but not his mind.
I, Being Born a Woman, and Distressed
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I, being born a woman, and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, this poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.