Celebrate National Poetry Month with 'Travel' by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Celebrate National Poetry Month with 'Travel' by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, 19 April, 2021

It’s the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month, a celebration of how a poets’ words can enchant, challenge, move, surprise, thrill, and uplift us — taking us somewhere previously uncharted in our imaginations.


This poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay was written in 1921, a dramatic period in the United States. Both WWI and the Spanish Flu had concluded their dirty business, but Prohibition was in effect. And with their newly acquired right to vote, women began to assert themselves in other areas of life.

This poem captures that yearning for a different choice, a different view, a different adventure. Both wistful and forceful, it articulates the tension between the comfort of the familiar and the allure of what lies at the other end of tracks leading into the distance.


Travel by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • The railroad track is miles away,
  • And the day is loud with voices speaking,
  • Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
  • But I hear its whistle shrieking.

  • All night there isn’t a train goes by,
  • Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
  • But I see its cinders red on the sky,
  • And hear its engine steaming.

  • My heart is warm with friends I make,
  • And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
  • Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
  • No matter where it’s going.

About Edna St. Vincent Millay

Born in Rockland, Maine, in 1892, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was a firecracker who read voraciously, believed in feminism, loved men and women with equal passion, and in 1923, was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. After graduating from Vassar in 1917, she moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village with her sister Norma, where they lived in a nine-foot-wide attic — smoking, drinking, playing gin rummy, and flirting with the other bohemians. She coined the phrase My candle burns at both ends in her poem First Fig, and won the Pulitzer Prize for The Ballad of Harp Weaver.

  • Read more about this remarkable woman at Poetry Foundation.

  • Listen to Edna St. Vincent Millay reading her poem The Ballad of Harp Weaver.

  • Watch the documentary Burning Candles: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Top image courtesy of Alan Ren/Unsplash.

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