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Book Moments Four, May Sarton

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.


Book Moments, May Sarton, April 4, 2022

Book Moments Two, May Sarton, April 7, 2022

Book Moments Three, May Sarton, April 19, 2022


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Author of the Week, May Sarton, May 17


May Sarton

(Novelist, Memoirist, Poet)

“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.”

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”

“I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something.”

“I feel happy to be keeping a journal again. I’ve missed it, missed naming things as they appear, missed the half hour when I push all duties aside and savour the experience of being alive in this beautiful place.”


May Sarton (1912—1995)  is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton.  Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938.

Her memoir, best-selling Journal of a Solitude, 1973, was an account of her experiences as a female artist, and is still read today, praised as “rich in the love of nature and the love of solitude … a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude,” by Eugenia Thornton. Sarton became acquainted with many literary figures, including Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. She taught at both Harvard and Wellesley; her books are a part of  college courses throughout the country. 

May Sarton died of breast cancer  in 1995, at the age of 83. She said of her work: “It is my hope that all the novels, the poems, and the autobiographical books may come to be seen as a whole, the communication of a vision of life.” She has an extensive and impressive legacy’ with over 50 published works.

[Note: I have a long-lasting love of May Sarton’s journals and fiction. I probably own 30+ of her 50 works, and often reread her journals, especially House by the Sea, my favorite. She falls deeply in love with nature, flowers, gardens, land, sea and sky, and her writing. She writes her best in this book, just luminous! A book to keep by your bed and savor before turning out the light, taking May’s wise thinking into your subconscious. If you read only one book by May, House by the Sea will capture your heart, imagination, and soul. Sarton is an inspiration.]


Interview (30-minute film) with May Sarton hosted by Karen Saum. Sarton speaks about poetry and her writing. This vimeo is followed by another of Sarton’s events “May Sarton: Writing in the Upward Years” (1988).

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/15202922″>May Sarton She knew a Phoenix</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3645923″>Belfast Community Media</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Sarton’s Novels:


May Sarton’s Amazon page:














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