Sara Teasdale is known as a lyric poet whose work was mainly concerned with beauty, love, and death. The early 20th-century poet was known to incorporate her own experiences into her poetry, from those of youth to those of depression. Much of her work preceded modern feminist poetry and the confessional poems of poets like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.
Her career was one of great success, winning the Columbia Poetry Prize, the now Pulitzer Prize, in 1918 for her work “Love Songs.” Her personal life was not as flourishing, however, as with other confessional poets of the past, particularly Anne Sexton; Teasdale also had a life full of mental torment, which tragically led to her ending her own life in 1933.
About Sara Teasdale
- Sara Teasdale was born in 1884 in St.Louis, Missouri.
- Teasdale’s first poem was published in ‘Reedy’s Mirror‘ in 1907.
- She got married in 1914 and moved to New York.
- Teasdale won the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1918.
- Sara Teasdale committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.
- She was homeschooled until she was nine years old.
- Teasdale was a member of The Potters, a group of female artists.
- Sara Teasdale’s poems are remembered for their focus on beauty, love, and death.
- Teasdale was awarded the Poetry Society of America Prize for ‘Love Songs.’
- She was buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
- ‘The Ghost’ describes a speaker’s uncomfortable experiences after she reunites with two ex-lovers. The speaker describes clearly the events that led up to this encounter. She was traveling back to a city she used to live in. The first man she ran into gave her no issues. Their love is buried in the past. The second man was more trouble, though. Their love was never fully expressed, and so it still haunts them.
- ‘I am Not Yours’ is one of Teasdale’s best poems. In it, she expresses the emotions of a speaker who is seeking out a love that does not seek to confine her. She wants a relationship that allows her to get lost in love. She wants a partner who will let her be a “candlelit noon” and will sweep her away “like a taper in a rushing wind.”
- ‘September Midnight’ is an emotional poem in which the speaker expresses affection for the final days of summer. She creates beautiful images that help the reader immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of summertime. Unfortunately, winter is coming soon. There are only a few nights between the warmth of summer and the chilled nights of winter.
- ‘To Sappho I’ is a sonnet written in dedication to the ancient Greek poet Sappho. The speaker spends the text considering Sappho’s world and what Greece must have been like for a woman. She believes nature was pristine back then, with “no doubt” in everyday life. Unfortunately, the modern world is not like this. It is filled with unwanted doubts. People have lost the desire to experience new things and explore the world.
- ‘Winter Stars’ is a poem that focuses on time and the changes that every individual goes through in their lifetime. The speaker is overcome with sorrow. She is looking back on her life, specifically to a time when she walked on the beach at night and loved the stars. This is no longer what her life is like. Everything has changed except those stars she used to admire.
Explore more of Sara Teasdale’s poems.
Sara Teasdale was born in 1884 in St.Louis, Missouri. As a child, she was frequently in poor health and had to be home school until she was nine years old. She grew up in a staunchly religious household and was privately educated, starting at the Mary Institute and then Hosmer Hall from where she graduated in 1903. In the early years of her career, she was a member of The Potters, a group of female artists; together, they published The Potter’s Wheel. She was also known to travel to Chicago, where she met Harriet Monroe, who had influence within the literary scene, particularly as she was the founder of the Poetry magazine.
Teasdale’s first poem was published in a local newspaper, Reedy’s Mirror, in 1907, and in that same year, she published her first collection of poems, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems. Her second collection, Helen of Troy and Other Poems, was published in 1911 and was received very well by readers and critics.
Teasdale was married in 1914 to Ernst Filsinger and moved with her husband to New York City in 1916. It is said that poet Vachel Lindsay was her true flame, but during that time, he could not provide for her financially, so she turned to another suitor in Filsinger.
She worked throughout this period on her own poetry as well as editing two anthologies, The Answering Voice: One Hundred Love Lyrics by Women and Rainbow Gold for Children. Her third collection, Rivers to the Sea, was published in 1915. Her poems are noted for their emotional subject matter and lyrical language. She gained fame during her lifetime and won the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1918. Teasdale was also awarded the Poetry Society of America Prize for Love Songs.
Many poetry lovers actually consider her best work to be her later collections. “Flame and Shadow,” “Dark of the Moon,” and “Stars To-Night” are some of her crowning achievements creatively.
Later Life and Death
Throughout the 1920s, Filsinger frequently traveled for business. The separation was too hard on Teasdale, and in 1929 she moved away in an effort to gain a divorce. Filsinger was unaware of her intentions and was very surprised when he found out. Rumour has it that Teasdale attempted to rekindle the past relationship between herself and Vachel Lindsay, but by this point, he had moved on and had gotten married. The following years saw Teasdale suffer from bouts of pneumonia. She was in a very weakened state when in the early 1930s, she committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. She died in 1933. Teasdale was buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
Influence from other Poets
Sara Teasdale was notably influenced by writers such as Christina Rossetti and Sappho. Another peripheral influence may have been Vachel Lindsay, who fell in love with Teasdale in 1913.
Sara Teasdale released a whole host of successful poems, but there were a few that garnered her a lot of critical acclaim. Arguably the most famous collection of these poems is “Love Song,” which won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1918. Other notable mentions are “Flame and Shadow,” “Dark of the Moon,” and “Stars To-Night.”
Sara Teasdale’s poem ‘There Will Come Soft Rains‘ speaks of the inevitability of death and that Nature will carry on without us even if war and destruction were to wipe mankind from the planet. It also highlights how no matter what humankind does in its time on earth, we can never take away natural beauty.
Sara Teasdale was known for her excellent style of poetry, writing in sonnets. Many poetry lovers consider her work conventional but executed expertly. She is also known for her beautiful verse that has a melancholic tone.
Sara Teasdales’s poetry won numerous awards throughout her career. Her crowning glory was, without a doubt, her Columbia Poetry Prize, which is now the Pulitzer Prize, in 1918.
Tragically, despite a very successful literary career, Sara Teasdale battled with mental issues throughout her life. In 1933, she ended her own life by overdosing on sleeping pills.