Book Moments Four, May Sarton, May 3, 2022
Anniversary of May’s birth date, May 3, 1912
My morning tea with May Sarton, filled with sunlight. This moment reflecting May’s thought “to live in eternity’s light, not in time.”
I am at the end of At Seventy, A Journal. I have over 35 volumes of May Sarton’s books on my bookshelf, with several still to read.
May writes that she listens to Mozart Piano Concerto E-Flat Major, No. 9 (as I am listening to this music too). She conveys her feelings about nature, her garden, flowers, birds, rhythms of the seasons, and light. These themes, her companions really, are in all her journals and poetry.
“I look out at the rain, the narrow winding path through the golden grasses to the gray ocean, and rest in it. I am as close to heaven as I am to hell all these days as summer turns to autumn.”
I especially love her description of flowers:
“My eyes rested on a blue jar containing crimson cosmos and lavender Michaelmas daisies, color as brilliant and starling as a clash of cymbals against the white walls.”
On page 305, May tells us about her muse. “Poetry does not happen for me without a muse.”
During the November entries in this journal, she mentions that a muse means intense preoccupation …
“I am fully aware that the presence of a muse literally opens the inner space, just as November light opens the outer space …
“With this muse, to make every effort to live in eternity’s light, not in time.”
She has often claimed that her muse is a woman who “focuses the world for me.” For some artists, the muse is metaphorical or can even be an actual person. For May, her muse seems to be both.
It has been well documented in May’s writings that she considered Juliette Huxley to be her living muse.
I think May had many muses and at different levels. She mentions the influence of Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Julian Huxley, S.S. Kolteliansky, Florida Scott-Maxwell, Anne Thorp, Susan Sherman, and especially Jean Dominique and Louise Bogan. I think perhaps even her dog Tamas and cat Bramble have had their play as muses in her life.
In one of her poems, she discovers her misunderstanding Of The Muse.
Of The Muse (excerpt)
When I was young, I misunderstood The Muse.
Now I am older and wiser, I can be glad of her
As one is glad of the light.
We do not thank the light,
But rejoice in what we see
Because of it.
What I see today
Is the snow falling:
All things are made new.
Let us leave it here, finishing off these Book Moments as if savoring one of May’s delicate dinners: Belgian endive salad, a loaf of French bread, and a glass of Beaujolais. She has fed us all so well!
You might like to read her interview at the Paris Review:
“The thing about poetry—one of the things about poetry—is that in general one does not follow growth and change through a poem. The poem is an essence. It captures perhaps a moment of violent change but it captures a moment, whereas the novel concerns itself with growth and change. As for the journals, you actually see the writer living out a life, which you don’t in any of the other forms, not even the memoirs.”
May died at the age of 83 in 1995. She is buried in Nelson Cemetery,
Nelson, New Hampshire.