The beginning of the hefty tome of May Sarton’s complete poetic output includes an interesting publisher’s note, which converses upon what poetry means to us in the modern world. The reading of poetry underwent such change during the period in which Sarton was writing, and it is fascinating to be able to see how her work changed from her beginnings in 1930, to the final poems here, which were written in 1993.
Each collection has been arranged chronologically, and Sarton’s writing from the first is beautiful. Consider the following lines from wondrous poem ‘She Shall Be Called Woman’: “She lay quite still / and leaned / against the great curve / of the earth, / and her breast / was like a fruit / bursten of its own sweetness.”
Sarton’s use of surrounding landscapes, imagery and vocabulary is masterful throughout, as can be seen in the poem ‘Meditation in Sunlight’: “Far all is blue and strange / The sky looks down on snow / And meets the mountain range / Where time is light not shadow’.
Throughout, many different themes have been considered – architecture, love, what it means to be a woman, death and loss, the coming of the seasons, the passing of time, the grandeur of America, dancing, religion, teaching and learning, and the notion of experience. So many different poetic techniques have been used throughout too that whilst this is a wonderful volume to dip in and out of, it can also be read all at once.