Gay Wisdom – May Sarton


Today is the birthday of poet, memoirist, & novelist
May Sarton

Best known for her novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaid Singing, Sarton also wrote over 15 books of poetry, more than 20 books of fiction and over ten memoirs. 

Her novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaid Singing is considered a classic for its frank writing about her life as a Lesbian. In her Journal of Solitude (1973) she wrote that "The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive, to portray a homosexual who is neither pitiable nor disgusting, without sentimentality."

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Andrew Ramer, author of "Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men" and the Praxis column in each issue of White Crane, knew and corresponded with May Sarton for many years.  We asked Andrew to recommend one of her works for inclusion in this Gay Wisdom message.  With no hesitation he recommended Sarton’s poem, "The Great Transparencies."  Thanks Andrew!

The Great Transparencies by May Sarton

Lately I have been thinking much of those,
The open ones, the great transparencies,
Through whom life–is it wind or water?–flows
Unstinted, who have learned the sovereign ease.
They are not young; they are not ever young.

Youth is too vulnerable to bear the tide,
And let it rise, and never hold it back,
Then let it ebb, not suffering from pride,
Nor thinking it must ebb from private lack.
The elders yield because they are so strong–

Seized by the great wind like a ripening field,
All rippled over in a sensuous sweep,
Wave after wave, lifted and glad to yield,
But whether wind or water, never keep
The tide from flowing or hold it back for long.

Lately I have been thinking much of these,
The unafraid although still vulnerable,
Through whom life flows, the great transparencies,
The old and open, brave and beautiful . . .
They are not young; they are not ever young.

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"But what is becoming tiresome now in the American ethos, is the emphasis on sex, and especially on orgasm as an end in itself. Let us think more about what enriches life; to put it in the metaphorical form, let us think about flowers and animals in a new way. A sensitized person who feels himself at peace with nature and with the natural man in him is no going to be troubled about sex.
It will have its day and its hour and the orgasm, should it occur, will come not as a little trick cleverly performed, but as a wave of union with the whole universe. The emphasis on orgasm per se is just another example of the devaluation of all that is human."
May Sarton, from her Journal of A Solitude

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