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May Sarton Shrine

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"The liberated, intellectual, cigarette-smoking sage"

It's Thayer's Portrait of May Sarton (at right), a depiction of the late poet in the prime of her life, on loan from the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, that presides most forcefully in this room. Sarton, a heroine of liberal-left lesbian activists in recent years, leans forward, dark hair held back with a band, smoking in her bold green jacket, orange sweater showing underneath, turquoise cuffs and pants contrasted dramatically against a crimson background. The face of the poet who wrote about the solitary life of the writer, about a woman's love of women, is angular, pellucid, handsome, engaged, determined, intrigued, and receptive... - Scott Ruescher

In 1973, May Sarton moved from the inland New Hampshire home that had been the scene of the creative and inner life she so powerfully probed in both Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude. She went to a house on the sea coast of Maine--a place that was alone in all but a few months in summer, with the sea and the woods and a wide sky ever present.

At first the peace of this place and the escape from the personal anguish she had come to associate with her New Hampshire home seemed to have its own dark side. As she says, "I became haunted by something I read years ago to the effect that when the Japanese were in a period of peace they only painted fans."

But the creative passion returned and she discovered that what she had to give did not depend on others; and this was a discovery of rare value. "Solitude," she writes, "like a long love, deepens with time, and I trust will not fail me as my own powers of creation diminish. For growing into solitude is one way of growing to the end." - back cover, The House by the Sea