Sara Teasdale

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Sara Teasdale
Sara Teasdale.gif
Teasdale in 1919
Born Sara Trevor Teasdale
(1884-08-08)August 8, 1884
Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 29, 1933(1933-01-29) (aged 48)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Poet
Notable work(s) Flame and Shadow
Love Songs

Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884 – January 29, 1933) was an American lyric poet. She was born Sara Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri, and used the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger after her marriage in 1914.[1]

Biography[edit]

Teasdale was born on August 8, 1884. She had such poor health for so much of her childhood that it was only at age 14 that she was well enough to begin school. She started at Mary Institute in 1898, but switched to Hosmer Hall in 1899, graduating in 1903.

Teasdale's first poem was published in Reedy's Mirror, a local newspaper, in 1907. Her first collection of poems, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, was published that same year.

Teasdale's second collection, Helen of Troy and Other Poems, was published in 1911.[2] It was well received by critics, who praised its lyrical mastery and romantic subject matter.

From 1911 to 1914 Teasdale was courted by several men, including the poet Vachel Lindsay, who was truly in love with her but did not feel that he could provide enough money or stability to keep her satisfied. She chose to marry Ernst Filsinger, a longtime admirer of her poetry, on December 19, 1914.

Teasdale's third poetry collection, Rivers to the Sea, was published in 1915. It was and is a bestseller, being reprinted several times. In 1916 she and Filsinger moved to New York City, where they lived in an Upper West Side apartment on Central Park West.

In 1918 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1917 poetry collection Love Songs. It was "made possible by a special grant from The Poetry Society"; however, the sponsoring organization now lists it as the earliest Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (inaugurated 1922).[3]

Filsinger's constant business travel caused Teasdale much loneliness.[4] In 1929, she moved interstate for three months, thereby satisfying the criteria to gain a divorce. She did not wish to inform Filsinger, only doing so at her lawyers' insistence as the divorce was going through. Filsinger was shocked. After the divorce she moved only two blocks from her old home on Central Park West. She rekindled her friendship with Vachel Lindsay, who was now married with children.

In 1933, she died by suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills.[5] Lindsay had died by suicide two years earlier. She is interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

Teasdale's suicide and "I Shall Not Care"[edit]

A common urban legend surrounds Teasdale's suicide. The legend claims that her poem "I Shall Not Care" (which features themes of abandonment, bitterness, and contemplation of death) was penned as a suicide note to a former lover. However, the poem was actually first published in her 1915 collection Rivers to the Sea, a full 18 years before her suicide:[6]

I Shall Not Care

WHEN I am dead and over me bright April

Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.

I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful

When rain bends down the bough,
And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
Than you are now.

Legacy and influence[edit]

  • The poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" from her 1920 collection Flame and Shadow inspired and is featured in a famous short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury.
  • In 1967 Tom Rapp and the group Pearls Before Swine recorded a musical rendition of "I Shall Not Care" on their first album One Nation Underground.
  • In 1994, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[7]
  • In 2010, Teasdale's works were for the first time published in Italy, translated by Silvio Raffo.
  • A beautifully translated Chinese version of the poem "Like Barley Bending" [8] became wildly popular in China in 2013 due to resurrecting debates and controversies surrounding a 19 year old thallium poisoning case. The young girl who made the translation, Zhu Ling, was poisoned when she was a sophomore at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in 1994. She was permanently paralyzed and now clings to her life 19 years after the poisoning. The case was never solved and many Chinese believe that the main suspect was released without prosecution because of her family’s political connections. The translation was made while Zhu Ling was in high school. The content of the poem, to a great degree, matches her own tragic fate years later. Reading her translation today, one cannot help but feel that she was translating the poem for herself, reflecting the spirit of persistence and struggle that helped her go through all these difficult years after the poisoning. Many Chinese readers view the poem as a symbol of rising up together, no matter how weak or small each individual is, to bravely pursue justice and freedom under a big oppressive corrupted system.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Collection of Teasdale's letters in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.
  2. ^ Wikisource link to Helen of Troy and Other Poems. Wikisource. 1911.
  3. ^ "Poetry". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  4. ^ Letters from Sara Teasdale to Mr. Braithwaite expressing her loneliness can be accessed at the Berg Collection.
  5. ^ "Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)". Retrieved 22 April 2009. 
  6. ^ Wikisource link to Rivers to the Sea. MACMILLAN & CO. Wikisource. 1915.
  7. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Like Barley Bending" on YouTube. Chinese-language translation by Zhu Ling of the poem by Sara Teasdale with video accompaniment. YouTube.

Translations[edit]

  • Тисдейл С. Реки, текущие к морю: Избранные стихотворения (in Russian). – Moscow: 2011. – 192 pages. ISBN 978-5-91763-062-5

External links[edit]