Sara Teasdale

1884–1933
Sara Teasdale
Sara Teasdale received public admiration for her well-crafted lyrical poetry which centered on a woman's changing perspectives on beauty, love, and death. Many of Teasdale's poems chart developments in her own life, from her experiences as a sheltered young woman in St. Louis, to those as a successful yet increasingly uneasy writer in New York City, to a depressed and disillusioned person who would commit suicide in 1933. Although many later critics would not consider Teasdale a major poet, she was popular in her lifetime with both the public and critics. She won the first Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918, a prize that would later be renamed the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Critics found much of Teasdale's poetry to be unsophisticated but full of musical language and evocative emotion. A New York Times Book Review contributor, writing about the 1917 edition of Love Songs, asserted that "Miss Teasdale is first, last, and always a singer." Reviewing the 1915 volume Rivers to the Sea, another New York Times Book Review contributor deemed the book "a little volume of joyous and unstudied song."

Teasdale's work in the 1926 book Dark of the Moon demonstrates her sensitivity to language, according to New York Times Book Review contributor Percy A. Hutchison. Hutchison praised "the exquisite refinement of Sara Teasdale's lyric poetry," which "shows how near Sara Teasdale can come to art's ultimate goals." Marguerite Wilkinson, writing in the New York Times Book Review and Magazine, commented on Teasdale's poetic development in 1920's Flame and Shadow, noting that "Sara Teasdale has found a philosophy of life and death," having "grown intellectually since the publication of her earlier books" and displaying a "growth in artistry." Wilkinson concluded that Flame and Shadow "is a book to read with reverence of joy."

Saturday Review of Literature contributor Louis Untermeyer, reviewing Strange Victory shortly after the poet's death, also commented on Teasdale's development. Untermeyer insisted that Strange Victory "must be ranked among her significant works," that its "beauty is in the restraint" of its "ever-present though never elaborated theme." Reviewing the 1984 collection Mirror of the Heart: Poems of Sara Teasdale, Choice contributor J. Overmyer voiced similar opinions of Teasdale's poetry, as its "simply stated thoughts are complex . . . and reverberate in the mind."

Career

Poet. Potter's Wheel magazine, St. Louis, MO, writer and publisher, beginning c. 1904. Sometimes published under the pseudonym Frances Trevor.

Bibliography

  • Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, Poet Lore (Boston, MA), 1907.
  • Helen of Troy and Other Poems, Putnam's (New York City), 1911, revised edition, 1922.
  • Rivers to the Sea, Macmillan (New York City), 1915.
  • Love Songs, Macmillan, 1917, new edition with photographs by Eric Bauer, Macmillan, 1975.
  • (Editor) The Answering Voice: One Hundred Love Lyrics by Women, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1917, enlarged edition, Macmillan, 1928, new edition with additional poems published as The Answering Voice: Love Lyrics by Women, Books for Libraries Press (Freeport, NY), 1971.
  • Vignettes of Italy: A Cycle of Nine Songs for High Voice, 1919.
  • Flame and Shadow, Macmillan, 1920, revised edition published by Cape (London, England), 1924.
  • (Editor) Rainbow Gold: Poems Old and New for Boys and Girls, illustrations by Dugald Stewart Walker, Macmillan, 1922.
  • Dark of the Moon, Macmillan, 1926.
  • Stars To-Night: Verses New and Old for Boys and Girls, Macmillan, 1930.
  • A Country House, drawings by Herbert F. Roese, Knopf (New York City), 1932.
  • Strange Victory, Macmillan, 1933.
  • The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (also known as Collected Poems), Macmillan, 1937.
  • Those Who Love, Love Poems, edited by Arthur Wortman, illustrated by Bill Greer, Hallmark Editions (Kansas City, MO), 1969.
  • Mirror of the Heart: Poems of Sara Teasdale, edited by William Drake, Macmillan, 1984.
  • Christmas Carol, pictures by Dale Gottlieb, Holt (New York City), 1993.
Contributor to books, including New Voices, by Marguerite Wilkinson, Macmillan, 1936. Contributor to periodicals, including Little Review, Mirror, Poetry, Potter's Wheel, and Smart Set. Teasdale's poems have been recorded on audio cassette and released as Poems of Sara Teasdale, Summer Stream Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1980. Author of an unfinished biography of Christina Rossetti.

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Carpenter, Margaret Haley, Sara Teasdale: A Biography, Pentelic Press (Norfolk, VA), 1977.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 45: American Poets, 1880-1945, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
  • Drake, William, Sara Teasdale: Woman and Poet, Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1979.
  • Reference Guide to American Literature, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
  • Schoen, Carol, Sara Teasdale, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1986.
  • Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Volume 4, Gale, 1981.
PERIODICALS
  • Choice, January, 1985, p. 686.
  • Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 1937, p. 10.
  • Nation, January 6, 1916, p. 12; January 5, 1921, p. 20; December 1, 1926, pp. 608-609; November 1, 1933, p. 520; January 1, 1938, p. 753.
  • New Republic, December 1, 1926, pp. 48-49.
  • New York Times Book Review, December 3, 1911, p. 760; January 16, 1916, p. 22; October 21, 1917, p. 416; December 2, 1917, p. 515; November 14, 1926, p. 4; November 12, 1933, p. 4; October 31, 1937, p. 9.
  • New York Times Book Review and Magazine, October 31, 1920, p. 10.
  • Saturday Review, February 11, 1967.
  • Saturday Review of Literature, October 13, 1928, p. 257; November 4, 1933, p. 235.

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Poet Categorization

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

LIFE SPAN 1884–1933

Sara Teasdale

Biography

Sara Teasdale received public admiration for her well-crafted lyrical poetry which centered on a woman's changing perspectives on beauty, love, and death. Many of Teasdale's poems chart developments in her own life, from her experiences as a sheltered young woman in St. Louis, to those as a successful yet increasingly uneasy writer in New York City, to a depressed and disillusioned person who would commit suicide in 1933. . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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