What Lips My Lips Have Kissed - Poetry Analysis

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During the 1920’s, emerging liberalist women; women who were referred to as “flappers”, the emergence of term coincided with the rise of a new generation of post war women who desired to shake off the shackles of Edwardian repression and establish themselves as an independent force. With this movement, women of all ages awakened to the idea of sexual liberation and empowerment. This encouraged a wave of change that would motivate women for years to come to live their lives independently from men and create a generation of bold and confident women. Among these women was the late Edna St. Vincent Millay, an American poet born in the late 1800’s. As Millay was entering her prime of both emotional enlightenment and sexual power in the 1920’s, she began creating a series works transformed from expression of strong-willed individuals and independent women in some works, (The Lamp and the Bell, 1921), to more of a reflection of human emotion in others.

Just as seasons go through an inevitable change, so do people. In her sonnet, “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why”, Millay addresses a concern people may have as they experience changes within their life. More specifically, as one’s youth may fade away so do the moments of the past, and what we are left with is but only our memories of emotions expressed.

The poem begins as a recount of past lovers whom a woman once had encounters with for only very brief moments of her life. The belief that these "lips her lips have kissed" were but only momentary passing in her life is enforced in the very opening of the sonnet, as she tells of the forgotten arms she has lain with (1-2). While the character within the story may momentarily be experiencing a feeling of quiet pain, the theme of the poem is suggested as she recites that in fact it were her lips kissing others, she does not consider her lovers kissed by herself, and thus we can recognize her lack of emotional attachment to these forgotten lovers....
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