A Girl Called Vincent by Krystyna Poray Goddu

The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay

Dave Romero/vibrantimage.com

About the Author

I was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, a quick bus ride away from New York City. The city’s skyline glistened like Oz from the town’s highest points, always beckoning me. By the time I was twenty-four, I had my own tiny apartment on the Upper West Side. Today I divide my time between the city, where I brought up my two children, and a small town surrounded by mountains in western Maryland.

I grew up in a multi-generational home, in a big old house with my two younger siblings, my parents, my maternal grandparents and five succeeding boxers, each one named Ducat. Both my mother and father had been born and raised in Poland, and were forced to leave at the start of World War II. Polish was the language of the house, where we practiced many Polish traditions and ate many Polish foods.

From the moment I learned to read, I loved nothing more. My strongest childhood memory is being curled up in my favorite chair in the living room with a book, my father lying on the couch next to me, with his book. It seemed only natural to me that I should create what I so love. I can’t remember a day of my life when I didn’t believe I was, and would always be, a writer.

I studied French, the classics and comparative literature at Brown University and then, more informally, in Aix-en-Provence, France, for a year. I returned home and started a career in publishing. I have been writing, editing and publishing articles, book reviews, magazines and books ever since. In 2008 I became a regular children’s book reviewer for Publishers Weekly magazine; I report on children’s book events and interview children’s book authors and illustrators for the magazine, as well. I’ve also been lucky enough to be a part of several school communities in New York, working in their libraries and teaching writing to middle-school students. In Maryland, I enjoy teaching writing to adults in a Continuing Education program.

Vincent and Me

When I was about twelve years old, I discovered the poem "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. As I write in A Girl Called Vincent, the poem “was a very long one—more than 200 lines—but the rhythm of the words, the very clear images and stirring emotions, kept me reading. By the time I had finished it, I was puzzled, moved and intrigued all at once. I started reading it again.

“That poem was Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 'Renascence,' and I have never forgotten the experience of reading it in my attic bedroom, over and over again, feeling chills and heat and fascination. I was a young girl who believed herself a poet, and this poem was deeply inspiring.”

That experience was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the poet and her poetry. When I started to learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay, and found out that she was nineteen years old when she wrote this poem, I wasn’t especially amazed. I was sure I could write a poem like that by the time I was nineteen, or sooner. Her life, however, did seem amazing to me. It sounded romantic and exciting, and I could tell that it was the way she wrote about it in her poems that made it so.

Even though I never wrote any remarkable poems, throughout my life, I have continued to find insight and sustenance in Vincent’s. During periods of romantic heartbreak, I nearly memorized her love sonnets (“You all have lied, who told me Time would ease me of my pain!”); when the wanderlust hits me, I think, “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take/​no matter where it’s going.” And on particularly gorgeous days I find myself proclaiming (in my head, that is): “Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!”

The publication of A Girl Called Vincent is a dream come true for me, a dream that I have carried since that evening in my attic bedroom, when Vincent’s words first entered my spirit.

Books for Young Readers and Adults

Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II/​A Memoir (collaboration with Krystyna Mihulka), Chicago Review Press, 2017

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Chicago Review Press, 2016

Dollmakers and Their Stories: Women Who Changed the World of Play, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2004

R. John Wright: The Art of Toys, Reverie Publishing Company, 2004

A Celebration of Steiff: Timeless Toys for Today, Portfolio Press Corporation, 1997

The Doll by Contemporary Artists (co-author with Wendy Lavitt), Abbeville Press, 1995

Books for the Educational Market

Native Peoples of the Great Basin, Lerner Books, 2017

Native Peoples of the Northwest, Lerner Books, 2017

Native Peoples of the Plateau, Lerner Books, 2017

George Washington’s Presidency, Lerner Books, 2016

What’s Your Story, Paul Revere?, Lerner Books, 2016

What’s Your Story, Susan B. Anthony?, Lerner Books, 2016

What’s Your Story, Wilma Rudolph?, Lerner Books, 2016

A Primary Source History of U.S. Independence, Capstone Press, 2015

Selected Book Reviews and Articles

Q&A with Emily Arnold McCully, Publishers Weekly, July 8, 2014

Q&A with Gabi Swiatkowska, Publishers Weekly, April 29, 2014

‘Firebird’ Lands on the Page, from ABT Soloist Misty Copeland, Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2014

From African Orphanage to the International Stage: A Dancer Recounts Her Journey, Publishers Weekly, September 18, 2014

Madeleine L’Engle’s Beloved Writing Spot Named Literary Landmark, Publishers Weekly, December 4, 2012

Lost Love: Rediscovered Madeleine L’Engle Novel Arrives, Publishers Weekly, May 1, 2008

Good Luck Charms: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, June 16, 2013

A Child of the Blacklist Becomes a Teenage Spy: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, October 16, 2011

Cup Runneth Over: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, March 3, 2009

Toy Stories: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, December 12, 2007

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