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No. 5 Burning Her Candles

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

This video landed in my Twitter feed the other day.

It is a film of poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay skinny dipping with composer Deem Taylor's wife, Mary Kennedy.

As a high school student, I performed in Vincent’s poem piece The Murder of Lidice, an anti-war tale where we hear from the ghosts of a town destroyed by the Nazis. I later directed the piece with high school students. Millay’s play Aria da Capo was the first play I directed as a student at Western Washington University. (For those of you who knew them, it starred the stellar Seth McKenzie and Megan Johnson.) The play is another anti-war piece about two shepherds who interrupt a harlequinade, innocently kill each other, but the harlequinade continues unaffected.

I’ve read Nancy Milford’s biography of Millay, “Savage Beauty” and found it to be dishy and revealing. Even more revealing than this video.

“One of the first things Vincent explained to Norma was that there was a certain freedom of language in the Village that mustn't shock her. It wasn't vulgar. 'So we sat darning socks on Waverly Place and practiced the use of profanity as we stitched. Needle in, shit. Needle out, piss. Needle in, fuck. Needle out, cunt. Until we were easy with the words.”

Nancy Milford, Savage Beauty

Swim Buddies

But who is Deems Taylor? He was one of the most accomplished classical music composers and conductors of his time. In fact, his reputation landed him the juicy role of the master of ceremonies in Disney’s Fantasia. Taylor’s second wife and Vincent’s swimming partner, Mary Kennedy was an actress, playwright, and poet who was describe in her daughter’s Wikipedia page as being a peregrinator.


Poetry Foundation:


NYT: Rockwell, John (2003 December 7) “Practicing What He Preached”

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