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Kay Boyle: Monody to the Sound of Zithers

I have wanted other things more than lovers …	
I have desired peace, intimately to know	
The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment,	
To learn by heart things beautiful and slow.	
Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted;
And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part;	
All dim things, layers of river-mist on river—	
To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart.	
I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids,	
Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth.
I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion;	
And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south.	
These things have I wanted more than lovers …	
Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass—	
Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers.
Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.

Public Domain

Kay Boyle (1902 – 1992), was a fiction writer, poet and political activist. Her books of poetry include Collected Poems of Kay Boyle (Copper Canyon Press, 1991); This Is Not a Letter, and Other Poems (Sun and Moon Press, 1985); and Testament for My Students, and Other Poems (Doubleday, 1970). Her honors included the Before Columbus Foundation Award, the 1989 Lannan Literary Award, and two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for “extraordinary contribution to American literature over a lifetime of creative work”. She was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Boyle and her third husband Joseph Freiherr von Franckenstein were victims of early 1950s McCarthyism. Her husband was dismissed by Roy Cohn from his post in the Public Affairs Division of the United States Department of State, and Boyle lost her position as foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, a post she had held for six years. She was blacklisted by most major magazines. During this period, her life and writing became increasingly political. She and her husband were cleared by the United States Department of State in 1957.

Boyle accomplished a great deal in her life. Besides bearing six children by three different husbands, she published more than 40 books, including 14 novels, eight volumes of poetry, 11 collections of short fiction, three children’s books, and many French to English translations. She also had a successful career as an essayist and journalist. Most of her papers and manuscripts are in the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.  A comprehensive assessment of Boyle’s life and work was published in 1986 titled Kay Boyle, Artist and Activist by Sandra Whipple Spanier. In 1994 Joan Mellen published a voluminous biography of Kay Boyle, Kay Boyle: Author of Herself.

(sources Academy of American Poets and Wikipedia)

7 comments on “Kay Boyle: Monody to the Sound of Zithers

  1. matthewjayparker
    October 28, 2022

    Wow. What a voice. And such a way with phrases. This one will stick with me.


    • Vox Populi
      October 28, 2022

      Yes, she was a brave writer whose work isn’t read much anymore. Pity.


      • matthewjayparker
        October 28, 2022

        I’m about to change that. Doubly so because she was blacklisted.


        • Vox Populi
          October 28, 2022

          She was one of the brave ones who stood up to McCarthy.



  2. vengodalmare
    October 28, 2022



  3. Loranneke
    October 28, 2022

    Pure delight that poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      October 28, 2022

      I think so too. Laure-Anne, it’s so nice to have you back on these pages!


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This entry was posted on October 28, 2022 by in Opinion Leaders.

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