This image of Pullitzer-prize winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay posed amidst the branches of a dogwood tree is a visual icon in a world of letters. In the photograph, the slight but striking Millay’s eyes lock in a troubled leftward gaze as her hands grasp at the tree’s bouquet. Still, Millay manages to convey a considerable strength behind that little-girl-lost posturing.
When local poet and VRZHU press publisher Dan Vera—-big guy, glasses, goatee—- strikes the same pose, is the result as subtly evocative? Let’s take a look:
Hmm. Let’s try another local. How about Karen Alenier?
Getting closer! Vera and Alenier are two of the 13 poets who recreated Millay’s iconic shot in an endeavor they call the “Millay Project.” The poets found their poetry nerd inspiration in a blooming dogwood outside Brookland’s Mount Saint Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery. After discovering the tree, Vera and Kim Roberts set about recruiting friends to strike a pose.
Project participant and fellow VRZHU publisher Michael Gushue admits that he and other local wordsmiths, like Terrance Mulligan and Joseph Ross, may be unable to totally replicate Millay’s charm. “You know, we didn’t have an Edna St. Vincent Millay coach on hand,” says Gushue. “I think everyone just wanted to pay homage and have a little fun.”
That bit of fun—-which involved poetry reading and a picnic—-has inspired the group, who hope to photograph more poets by the tree “until we get them all,” Gushue says. “We’re sad that we can’t just go do it more often, but the tree only blooms once a year,” he says. When asked if he could explain why the group of poets was doing this, Gushue replied, “No.”
Though Gushue summarily dismisses the idea of recreating another photograph (“This one pretty much does it,” he says), he admits that some poets fit the Millay mold better than others. “Regie Cabico is far and away the best,” he says. Judge for yourself: