For several years I sent May a tiny bouquet of fragrant Trailing Arbutus. A few of them are blooming now in a struggling patch in our Wild Garden. I think of May as I kneel to catch that spring aroma. How appropriate that May shared the name of this superb month in New England. I still miss her.
Well, actuarially “at last” was twenty years ago in September!
Goodale Hill Press has decided to celebrate this 20th anniversary of From May Sarton’s Well ‘s publication by Papier-Mache Press. We are offering a copy of the book free to each of the first 20 people who request one! We’re making this easy–all you need to do is go to “Contact” at the top of the homepage and fill out the form. I will autograph your copy. If you would like a dedication, please state what you want me to write in the message block. Then hit “Send”.
It took my son Nick Schade’s recent blog announcing the 20th anniversary of his website, http://www.guillemot-kayaks.com to remind me that the actual publication of From May Sarton’s Well by Papier-Mache Press happened twenty years ago last month!
On September 26, 1994, I wrote the following in my journal. “May just called me to say the book has arrived! She is thrilled. Says ‘It is stunning!’ She said “it’s a very nice letter’ I wrote in the forward. (Phew!!! I was a little worried about that—though even more about the Afterword—which she didn’t mention). She ended, ‘Blessings on you.’”
Needless to say, I was thrilled with May Sarton’s reaction. I felt that, no matter whether the book is successful in the marketplace or not, it was worth all my work. However, I was still waiting impatiently for those early copies to arrive in my mailbox. They arrived the next day, both the hard and soft copy editions. I had to pinch myself to realize they were actually real!
1994 saw the birth of From May Sarton’s Well:Writings of May Sarton, Selections by Edith Royce Schade. The book was published by Papier-Mache Press in September of that year, with a copper colored cover. This second decade since its publication has sent me to musing about what happened during that year and what I thought about it all.
What an exciting time it was for me. It followed a long gestation period that began with my reading of May’s Plant Dreaming Deep in 1971.
On February 3, 1994 I wrote the following in my journal:
“I sent “the book” to Papier-Mache today!
“I feel as if I am sending a child off to college in some ways. She is likely to change a lot. She is in other hands. How will she be seen by other people? Will she speak to them? Will they understand her? I have very little influence on her now. But I care a lot. Like a child, she is more than me. I gave her birth, and tried to nourish her, but she took off and grew on her own. She is herself. I don’t understand everything about her. Many will see her very differently than I. How fortunate I have been to nurture her. I am proud of her, but I cannot and must not take full credit for her. She is a gift.”
I was thinking especially of the photographs I had made for the book. I didn’t even mention the major role of May’s writing in these thoughts I’d jotted down. But I realize now even more than I did then, that “she”–From May Sarton’s Well–was a gift to me. I think it has been a gift to readers too, though, and hope that will continue as long as books are read.
May Sarton often wrote about her need to have periods of solitude in order to be able to write. So, too, there were times when its shadow side took hold. As she said in Journal of a Solitude, “At any moment solitude may put on the face of loneliness”.
Some of the photographs I used in From May Sarton’s Well came from my own files, while others I made especially for the book. Quite naturally I found a few images I had of my family members suited my purposes. My mother appears on page 117. (See “Recovering Published in Japan” in my Reflections blog.) Eric, my oldest son is in three of the illustrations, including one on page 106. (See “Childhood Time”.) While traveling in Utah with my husband and both sons, Nick, the younger one, lead us along a trail, just far enough ahead to seem to be alone with his thoughts. I don’t think he felt lonely but the scene (it appears on page 27) seemed right for this quotation. Yes, my husband made it in too, on to page 99. That’s another story.
- May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954, Edited and Introduced by Susan Sherman, W.W.Norton, ©1997.
- Dear Juliette: Letters of May Sarton to Juliette Huxley, Selected, Edited, and Introduced by Susan , W.W. Norton, ©1999.
- May Sarton, Selected Letters 1955-1995, Edited by Susan Sherman, W.W.Norton, ©2002
- In addition, May Sarton: Among the Usual Days: A Portrait, Edited by Susan Sherman, ©1993 contains excerpts from many of May’s letters.
I was very fortunate to be one who received mail from May. I wrote Ms. Sarton a fan letter after reading Plant Dreaming Deep in l971. She replied by postcard. That postcard and that book started me on a marvelous journey as a photographer and as a person. I will always treasure all the letters and postcards she wrote to me over 25 or so years.
May responded to every letter she received from anybody until eventually the shear quantity on the mail became overwhelming. This photograph is evidence (It appears on page 146 of From May Sarton’s Well) . I made it during my second visit to Wild Knoll with my friend, Anne Alvord, in 1983. We asked May if we could see her writing room there, and if I could make a photograph of her at her desk. Behind her piled-high desk was at least one large box of unanswered letters.
This photograph (on page 133 of From May Sarton’s Well) accompanies a quotation from Sarton’s memoir, Plant Dreaming Deep about Perley Cole, the farmer she often hired to help around her place in Nelson, New Hampshire. In “A Recognition”, her poem that follows on the next page, she elaborates on why, as she says, “I am, I think more of a poet than I was before I knew him”.
May Sarton had great respect Perley, especially as she observed him pulling “some order out of this rugged land”. He worked in harmony with his scythe early in the day when the tough grass was still bent with dew, “to prune, to make clear, to uncover”. She saw a similar need in her life and work as a poet.
The man in my photograph is not Perley Cole, but I was moved by the way he and his horse were in harmony carefully cultivating a field of young corn. They cut out the weeds to strengthen the crop.
P.S. By the way, I put an appendix—References—in the back of the book to give the source of every quotation and poem. I hope this will inspire and help readers to continue reading Sarton’s works.
The mythological phoenix lived to be ancient, then it would build a nest of twigs, sit in it and set it on fire. It would then arise from its own ashes and begin a new life cycle. May wrote at least two poems about the phoenix and commissioned a sculpture of the bird that now marks her grave in Nelson, New Hampshire. I include “The Phoenix Again” in From May Sarton’s Well in the chapter on Light. It could also have been in the chapter on Love, or Creation Itself. It refers to all of those.
I see May’s work as a phoenix. It has immortality that lives on beyond May’s physical life.
This photograph appears after the poem, on page 17, to celebrate the phoenix.
Dr. Mark K. Fulk, assistant professor of English at Buffalo State University of New York, presented a very interesting lecture at the May Sarton Centennial in May. He is the author of Understanding May Sarton, published by the University of South Carolina in 2001. I am pleased to include his talk “Sarton As a Poet and Secular Contemplative” in today’s Reflections. For further information about him visit: http://www.buffalostate.edu/english/fulkmk.xml?username=fulkmk
I was fortunate to have a chance to chat with Mark at the Poetry Celebration and Dinner the final evening of the Centennial. As we prepared to go into the informal meal, Linda Hedger snapped this picture of Mark Fulk, Lenora Blouin (see my May 18, 2012 blog) and me.
Here is his lecture: [Read more…]
Lenora P. Blouin gave the first presentation at the May Sarton Centennial Symposium, May 3 – 6, 2012. In her talk that she called “There Are No Farewells”, Blouin quoted some of Sarton’s writings about birthdays, and revealed how her own discovery of Sarton’s writings lead her to compile a bibliography of all of Sarton’s writings. Blouin ended her piece by discussing Sarton’s legacy.
I feel a certain kinship Lenora Blouin. It was Sarton’s second memoir, Plant Dreaming Deep that marked our discovery of May’s work and eventually led to each of us to embark on a major project and produce a book celebrating Sarton’s writing. Actually, Lenora has published two volumes of her bibliography and has begun work on a third. My one book is From May Sarton’s Well.
I enjoyed Lenora’s talk so much I asked her if I could include it on this website. I am very grateful that she agreed and here it is. [Read more…]
I’m still floating now over a week after the “Sarton-100” symposium in York, Maine, celebrating May Sarton’s 100th birth anniversary, May 3 – 6, 2012. People from all over the USA gathered to honor her, remember her, learn about her, share their stories about her. I had the feeling that May was smiling over this beautiful tribute to her.
The Sarton-100 committee, especially its chair Victoria Simon, worked over a period of about three years to bring together ten speakers about the writer and person, May Sarton. They arranged for three venues within walking distance of each other in the charming village of York, including a very interesting collection of Sarton books and memorabilia in the York Public Library. The event culminated for many of us on Saturday evening with a poetry celebration and dinner. I was not able to attend the service at South Church-Unitarian Universalist in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Sunday, the official end on the symposium.
In addition to attending the symposium and hearing other speakers, I had the honor and privilege of being one of the presenters. This gave me special opportunities to talk about the May whom I came to know in the process of creating From May Sarton’s Well: Writings of May Sarton. I also had a chance to chat with some of the other speakers. I have added the text of lectures by Leonora Blouin and Mark K. Fulk. I’m hoping to make this website “the place to go” if one wants information about May Sarton.