Sara Teasdale

Teasdale, a native Missourian, was a strong presence in American poetry in the early 20th century.

"Teasdale's work had always been characterized by its simplicity and clarity, her use of classical forms, and her passionate and romantic subject matter." --poets.org

Photograph: Sara Teasdale, photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1919, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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    About

    Teasdale grew up in a well-established family in Missouri, homeschooled due to her poor health until age nine. Frequent trips to Chicago as a youth whetted her appetite for poetry. Her first volume of poetry, Sonnets to Duse, and Other Poems, was published in 1907, when she was 23. She continued to publish poetry prolifically throughout her life, and her final volume, Strange Victory, was published posthumously after she committed suicide.

    Teasdale’s life was characterized by personal tumult. Her early love affair with poet Vachel Lindsey grew into deep friendship, and Teasdale eventually married Ernst Filsinger, a wealthy merchant. However, this marriage ended in divorce in 1929.

    Teasdale was an important member of the poetry circle in New York City. She moved to New York in 1916 with Filsinger, and it was there that she won a number of prizes for her poetry (including the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize in 1918, which became the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry). Her poetry became increasingly refined and subtle over the course of her lifetime.

    Her strong belief in the power of American poetry and the simplicity of poetry is demonstrated in this quote:

    “A fairly wide acquaintance with the poetry of England makes me sure that we [Americans] are nearer than they are to producing great work…As for my own work, I feel that the best of it is done in brief, exceedingly simple poems. I try to say what moves me–I never care to surprise my reader; and I avoid…all words that are not met with in common speech, and all inversions of word or phrases…For me one of the greatest joys of poetry is to know it by heart–perhaps that is why the simple, song-like poems appeal to me most–they are the easiest to learn.”

    The above quote is extracted from Our Poets of Today by Howard Willard Cook (New York : Moffat, Yard, 1918)

    –Christie Finn

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