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My first impression of this poem was that it was a well-written poem with lots of imagery.  It makes me feel serene, yet, at the same time, nostalgic. A line that especially evokes the first feeling for me is, “I only know what summer sang in me that in me sings no more.”  The other feeling of nostalgia arises when I read the line, “for unremembered lads that not again”. Perhaps because it seems like there are these men that she is forgetting.

What I know about the situation in the poem is that she is remembering and reminiscing her past lovers, and their memories together. What I know about the speaker is that she had many lovers and that whenever she remembers them, more than remembering a specific person she remembers the memories as a whole. Like she relives her past relationships through memories and feelings. This is suggested by the words “I have forgotten, and what arms have lain under my head till morning,”.   The speaker seems to be speaking to herself, St. Vincent Millay, perhaps to a friend. I say this because it sounds like a self-reflection.  The poem doesn’t seem to spring from a particular moment in history. The poem revolves around several themes, including heartbreak and time. If this poem were a question, the answer would be “not all wounds fully heal and memories and people can stay with you forever”.  If it were an answer, the question would be “What makes you sad?” The title suggests that she has kissed and been with many people before.

The poem’s form is a sonnet This form is a vehicle for the content of the poem.  If the poem were free verse, it would not guide me toward an understanding of the poem’s meaning.  By making it a sonnet, it gives the poem a steady beat to follow. Also, when she slightly changes the tone of the poem it gives it a break that accentuates her writing.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 A Close Reading of “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed” By Edna St. Vincent Millay by Mariam is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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