Daniel Mark Epstein’s book on The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay zooms into her world so closely I felt like a stalker. Even though Millay’s personal life is documented through letters, journals and her poems, I can’t help wonder if we have a right to know all. Probably not, but I was too spellbound by Epstein’s work to turn away. His presentation of the material has a flow that aligns with Millay’s poetry and supports the ebb of emotion, the stillness of expectation and the delight of her exuberance for life.

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed reveals Millay’s single-minded devotion to love and her obsessive need to share her experience through the written word. Reading about her life makes you want to be a poet the way Isadora Duncan makes you want to dance, and Erika Robuck makes you want to write historical fiction.

Millay was a woman devoted, and in some ways enslaved, to her mother and sisters. Still her commitment to love and her expression of it allowed her to swing blissfully into independence. The boldness in which she was able to express her emotions is enviable, inspirational and brave.

My love for you is something more than just thought, it is the love of Everywoman for Everyman. It is all primitive female life desiring its mate, it is all hunger crying for food, all weariness sighing for rest, it is the instinctive reaching out of the universal soul. 

She is a woman to be studied and admired. Anyone searching for who they are will be inspired by her strength to stand by her open relationships and her commitment to fulfilling her dreams.

We see from first to last of the poet’s oeuvre […] the cultivation of a multitude of rich voices from a profound and androgynous emotional center. If the male in her was not so firmly in touch with the female, she could never have written so insightfully of men and women in love. 

I don’t believe I’ve ever read of an artist so in tune with their passion that they actually become a living entity of it. Her life sparks imagination and fantasies so vivid, if you are any sort of artist you will be driven to dig deeper into the depths of your medium.

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed may be nonfiction, but it feels like a novel in its suspense and inevitability of action thanks to Epstein’s prose.

She meant to drink deeply from the spring of Eros, as any man might, as men had been doing since the beginning of recorded time. It was a game that could not be played without someone getting hurt now and then, and the excitement did keep her pen moving. 

Epstein’s commitment to be true to Millay’s life and loves combined with the tender way he reveals all is enviable. He makes me wish I could be as devoted to one artist in history. Of course, coveting other writers’ work is part of what writers do, isn’t it? Through one writer’s insight, curiosity rises and new stories unfold. Erika Robuck said What Lips My Lips Have Kissed was one of her favorite books when researching Millay for her novel Fallen Beauty. If you’re like me and read both books you’ll see just how brilliantly Robuck captured Millay’s life.

Oh, how I love how one book leads to another. Snatch up What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay  and see what follows.

MORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART: The True Adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis

My life as an actress allowed me to sing in a number of shows, but I would never label myself a singer. I was raised on The Grand Ole Opry and coveted Patsy Kline’s vocals until I heard Stevie Nicks and Carly Simon. But I’m not a factoid junkie. I never followed or sought out what the press wrote about any of the singers I loved. How their music affected me emotionally was all that mattered; their songs were my poetry. So my mind was an open canvas for Stephen Davis’s biography of Carly Simon.

Music’s accessibility is greater than ever. We buy, stream and watch our favorite music videos on Youtube. The ease with which we connect with our favorite musicians may lead us to believe the process that takes them from unknown to star is no big deal—a total misconception. The competition is stiff. The detours and roadblocks presented on Carly Simon’s journey to popularity shocked me, especially after I discovered she came from a family with “connections”. Simon’s biography proves that patience and persistence are the backbone to success. Her journey also chronicles the fickle reality of fame, and shows the only way to endure the highs and lows in any career is to stay true and connected to your heart.

If you make a record that’s true to yourself, and you love the work, it can’t be a flop. It can only sell poorly.

The biography is titled, More Room in a Broken Heart, but heart is exactly what is missing within its pages. Once Carly’s career takes off each chapter is more of the same, a detailed account of the songs, producers and musicians that were associated with each album with a bit about her personal life thrown in. The research required to present such a thorough accounting is impressive, but I found much of the material skim-able.

I thought my unrest with the material had to do with my preference for autobiographies or memoirs because the information is coming straight from the source. I also considered my frustration might be related to the fact that Carly Simon is a musician and not an actress or a writer, two professions close to home. But one of my favorite memoirs is The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, which is all about chess and Tai Chi Chuan.

My favorite parts of Stephen Davis’s book were the chapters that delved into the personal lives of Carly Simon and James Taylor. I found their personal struggles and fears that collided and irritated fascinating and I wanted more. When Davis showed how these two individuals conflicts and personal growth lead to the music I was enthralled. Unfortunately, the bulk of the book is written the other way around—these are the songs, the albums, and oh yeah, this is what was going on in Carly’s life.

Personal preference aside, More Room in a Broken Heart is a wonderful reference for any Carly Simon and James Taylor fan, or anyone intrigued by the mystery man behind You’re So Vain. An eye opening read.

Treat yourself to More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon.


How I wish The Literary Ladies were available for a consult when I was in college. Armed with the no-nonsense determination of Louisa May Alcott and the passion of Anais Nin, I might’ve had the nerve to have a showdown with my English professor—the one who said my writing was hopeless. Fortified by the words of Virginia Woolf and Madeleine L’Engle on how to battle inner demons, maybe I could’ve said, “You’ve given me a lot to think about, but I’m a writer and one day my words will be in print.”

But I digress. The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life is not just for writers. It’s a celebration of women who were ahead of their time, an army of re-enforcers to bolster the patience and persistence of those who are striving to beat the odds, a history of truth, and a diary of faith. This Guidebook is capable of inspiring anyone with a dream.

But wait, there is more…

The layout of this book is so divine—thanks to Nava Atlas’s power as a visual artist—you’ll find yourself reading the material in multiple ways. You can devour it like a novel cover to cover, zero in on the chapters that apply to your immediate needs, such as Developing a Voice or Rejection and Acceptance, or absorb everything about one Literary Lady at a time—you have twelve lovelies to choose from. No matter what reading preference you have, I’m certain this is one Guide to the Writing Life you will revisit again and again.

Bask in the wisdom of The Literary Ladies.