CAMDEN — “Waylaid by Beauty,” the final event in this summer’s popular Millay Series at Camden’s historic Whitehall Inn, celebrates the 102nd anniversary of the poet’s discovery at the inn with an evening cabaret, including wine and dinner, at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, August 28. Reservations are required.
Born in Rockland and raised in Camden, Edna St. Vincent Millay jumpstarted her literary career on August 29, 1912 by impressing summer guests at the Whitehall Inn with a reading of her 214-line poem “Renascence.”
After hearing Millay recite her poetry and play the piano, one of the guests, Caroline Dow, determined that the young poet should go to college. In 1913, Millay enrolled at Vassar, and she published her first volume of poems shortly after graduating.
Although Millay is best known for her flippant and cynical poems from “A Few Figs from Thistles,” these poems of wit and naughtiness represent only one facet of Millay’s versatility. Her strengths as a poet are more fully demonstrated by her strongly elegiac 1921 volume “Second April.”
This volume contains both free verse and sonnets, celebrating the rapture of beauty and laments its inevitable passing. “Beauty is not enough,” Millay says in “Spring,” her first free-verse poem.
The finest sonnet in the collection is the much-praised and frequently anthologized “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.” By way of Euclid, the father of geometry, Millay pays homage to the perfect intellectual pattern of beauty that governs every physical manifestation of it.
Unlike T.S. Eliot and other modernist poets of her time, Millay’s work does not deny the complicity of art with seduction or the way that beauty can betray. In both her life and poems, especially in the 1920s, Millay came to represent the new woman and the voice of a rebellious generation.
“Waylaid by Beauty” will feature live music and well-known Maine poets Jason Canniff, Sylvia de Leon, Ellen Goldsmith, Leonore Hildebrandt, current Rockland poet laureate Carol Bachofner, and former Portland poet laureate Martin Steingesser reading from Millay’s sassiest, most savory, sybaritic, and sweet-talking poems.
During dessert, the featured poets will also read their own poems. Orono poet Kathleen Ellis will host the event.
The fee for “Waylaid by Beauty” is $39.99 and includes a specially prepared three-course dinner with wine and dessert. For more information or to make reservations, call (207) 236-3391 or contact the inn by email at email@example.com.