Interpretation of Poem “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed and Where and Why” – Edna ST. Vincent Millay
She uses imagery of pleasure, intimate love, and nature. Her tone alters throughout the poem from feelings of wistfulness in the octave, to loneliness and abandonment in the sestet. The sestet signifies a shift from the speakers internal to external perspective.
“Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, yet knows its boughs more silent than before”. Millay, more or less, indicates that she is the “lonely tree” and that she has solitarily endured summer and winter, while lovers, affection, and cheerful experiences have come and gone. Essentially, Millay conveys the heartache she feels using a leafless tree in the midst of winter to that formerly had ample with birds singing in harmony, which symbolize the pure enjoyment that once was.
Additionally, the figurative language, primarily metaphors, really brings the poem to life.
Millay purposefully uses the form of an Italian sonnet, a form that traditionally honors and exalts love, to question whether it is worth it to love at all.
The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 10th ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. Print.
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. "What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why." Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1956. Print. .
The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 10th ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. 841. Print.