By Brian Shetler
As National Poetry Month comes to a close, I decided to take a look and see if any poets were featured in the WHDH collection. Though there were only a couple highlighted, I did come across a card for May Sarton, a poet, novelist, and historian who lived in Cambridge in the early-to-mid 20th century.
Sarton and her family arrived in Cambridge after escaping Belgium following the German invasion in 1916. Her father, George Sarton, taught the history of science at Harvard University for more than 30 years. During this time, May attended the High and Latin School in Cambridge and pursued a career in acting upon graduation. By 1935, however, her acting aspirations ended and Sarton turned to writing, which would become her lifelong profession.
Sarton’s first book of poetry was published in 1937, when she was just 25 years old. A year later she published her first novel, The Single Hound. By the time Sarton left Cambridge, in 1958, she had published five books of poetry and eight novels. She moved north, to Nelson, NH, which inspired one of her greatest works, a memoir entitled Plant Dreaming Deep. It was around the time of this publication (1968) that WHDH did a profile on May Sarton. Just prior to this film, Sarton published a collection of poetry entitled As Does New Hampshire. While the exact content of the film remains to be seen, living in New Hampshire certainly played an important role in Sarton’s life and may be discussed in the profile.
Over the course of her lifetime, May Sarton published extensively, resulting in a catalog of 16 books of poetry, 19 novels, and 12 journals/memoirs. Her works covered a variety of topics, including feminism, sexuality, aging, isolation, friendship, spirituality, and the struggles of creativity. Critics have pointed to the sense of truth within her work and note the great effort she made to be as open and transparent as possible.
A celebration of May Sarton’s life and work will be held May 3-6 in York, ME where Sarton lived out the last 22 years of her life. The symposium, held on what would have been her 100th birthday, will focus on Sarton’s influence as a major literary and feminist voice of the 20th century.
In honor of May Sarton, and to celebrate National Poetry Month, here is a link to one of her poems from around the time of the WHDH profile.
Blouin, Lenora P. 1999. “May Sarton: A Poet’s Life.” A Celebration of Women Writers, http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/sarton/blouin-biography.html
May Sarton Centennial Committee. 2012. “May Sarton Centennial Celebration.” Accessed April 25. http://maysarton100.org/index.html
Poetry Foundation. 2012. “May Sarton.” Accessed April 25. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/may-sarton
Poets.org. 2012. “May Sarton.” Accessed April 25. http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/653
Sarton, May. 1967. As Does New Hampshire and Other Poems. Peterborough, NH: Richard R. Smith Publishers.