The engrossing drama begun in May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916–1954 culminates in this gathering of 200 quintessential letters, culled from thousands. Copiously annotated, they propel the reader with passionate immediacy through the rich years of this beloved author's maturity and world-wide fame, to her death. "Sarton is one of the great letter writers of our time," Library Journal affirmed of the first volume. And here once again we see her in every aspect: the hard-pressed writer, the tormented lover, at her fiercest and most fond; the friend, confidante and passionate traveler, intensely engaged by public issues, ceaselessly searching for the elusive muse which made poetry and the creative transformation of life possible. In addition to longtime friends and intimates familiar from Volume One—Louise Bogan, Eva Le Gallienne, Bill Brown, Muriel Rukeyser and the Huxleys—the more than 150 recipients in this volume include Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bowen, Carolyn Heilbrun and Doris Grumbach, Madeleine L'Engle, Pat Carroll, and Marianne Moore.
A passionate Belgian in me,
A surviving of battles,
One who goes on.
I find it now.
I recognize it
In my father’s smile.
In Belgian Now. From May Sarton: Selected Letters 1955-1995, pp.416-417
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Born||Eleanore Marie Sarton
May 3, 1912
|Died||July 16, 1995 (aged 83)
BiographySarton was born in Wondelgem, Belgium (today a part of the city of Ghent). Her parents were science historian George Sarton and his wife, the English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes. When German troops invaded Belgium after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, her family fled to Ipswich, England where Sarton's maternal grandmother lived. One year later, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts. She went to school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating from Cambridge High and Latin School in 1929. She started theatre lessons in her late teens, but continued writing poetry, eventually publishing her first collection in 1937 entitled Encounter in April.
In 1945 she met her partner for the next thirteen years, Judy Matlack, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They separated in 1956, when Sarton's father died and Sarton moved to Nelson, New Hampshire. Honey in the Hive (1988) is about their relationship. In her memoir At Seventy, she reflected on Judy's importance in her life and how her Unitarian Universalist upbringing shaped her.
Sarton later moved to York, Maine. In 1990, she suffered a stroke, severely reducing her ability to concentrate and write. After several months, she was able to dictate her final journals, which celebrated the joys of her life. She died of breast cancer on July 16, 1995, and is buried in Nelson, New Hampshire.
Works and themesDespite the quality of some of her many novels and poems, May Sarton's best and most enduring work probably lies in her journals and memoirs, particularly Plant Dreaming Deep (about her early years at Nelson, ca. 1958-68), Journal of a Solitude (1972-1973, often considered her best), The House by the Sea (1974-1976), Recovering (1978-1979) and At Seventy (1982-1983). In these fragile, rambling and honest accounts of her solitary life, she deals with such issues as ageing, isolation, solitude, friendship, love and relationships, lesbianism, self-doubt, success and failure, envy, gratitude for life's simple pleasures, love of nature (particularly of flowers), spirituality and, importantly, the constant struggles of a creative life. Sarton's later journals are not of the same quality, as she endeavoured to keep writing through ill health and often with the help of a tape recorder.
Although many of her earlier works, such as Encounter in April, contain vivid erotic female imagery, May Sarton often emphasized in her journals that she didn't see herself as a "lesbian" writer, instead wanting to touch on what is universally human about love in all its manifestations. When publishing her novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing in 1965, she feared that writing openly about lesbianism would lead to a diminution of the previously established value of her work. "The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing," she wrote in Journal of a Solitude, "to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive, to portray a homosexual who is neither pitiable nor disgusting, without sentimentality ..."  After the book's release, many of Sarton's works began to be studied in university level Women's Studies classes, being embraced by feminists and lesbians alike.
Margot Peters' controversial biography (1998) revealed May Sarton as a complex human being who often struggled in her interpersonal relationships.
- May Sarton: A Poet. Harvard Square Library.
- Pobo, Kenneth (2002). "Sarton, May". Chicago. Chicago: glbtq, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
- "May Sarton". Unitarian Universalist Historical Society.
- May Sarton: A Poet's Life. University of Pennsylvania.
- "May Sarton". Poets.org. Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- Journal of a Solitude, 1973, pp. 90-91.
- May Sarton: A Poet. Harvard Square Library.