It’s the birthday of Sara Teasdale (1884) (books by this author), a popular American lyric poet who won the Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918 for her collection Love Songs (1917). The Columbia Poetry Prize was later renamed the Pulitzer Prize, making Teasdale the first winner in poetry.
Sara Teasdale was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents thought she was sickly, and treated her delicately, homeschooling her until she was nine, when she was finally educated at strict all-girls schools. She published her first poem, “Guenevere,” in Reedy’s Mirror (1907), a local newspaper, when she was 23. She and some friends also started a popular monthly literary magazine in St. Louis, called The Potter’s Wheel.
She made frequent trips to Chicago, where she fell in with Harriet Monroe and the Poetry Magazine crowd, including dashing poet Vachel Lindsay, who desperately loved her. Lindsay often took the summers to wander the country, singing and chanting his poems in exchange for food and shelter. He even carried a pamphlet titled “Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread.” He didn’t think he could support Teasdale financially, and she was wary, too, so she married St. Louis businessman Ernst Filsinger and moved to New York City, where they rented an apartment near Central Park West. She remained platonic friends with Lindsay for the rest of her life.
Teasdale’s poems were simple and concise and often romantic in nature. She was very popular with readers. Her collections include Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907), Rivers to the Sea (1915), and Stars To-Night (1930). The New York Timescalled Rivers to the Sea “a little volume of joyous and unstudied songs.”
Teasdale was unhappy in her marriage and divorced Filsinger. She lived alone for the rest of her life in an apartment just two blocks from the one she shared with Filsinger. She was a semi-invalid and suffered from depression. She died in 1933, in the bathtub, after taking too many sleeping pills. Vachel Lindsay had died two years earlier after drinking poison.
Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury liked Sara Teasdale’s poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” so much that he used the poem as a motif in a short story of the same name, which became very famous and was included in his classic, The Martian Chronicles(1950).