Stop #3: 75 1/2 Bedford Street
I mentioned Edna St. Vincent Millay in my last post about Chumley’s and just down the street at 75 ½ Bedford Street is a very small townhouse where Millay lived for several years. It is also one of the smallest townhouses in the city. It is only 9 1/2 feet wide, about half the width of a normal townhouse. It was originally a carriage lane.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was famous even before she got to the Village because of a dispute over a poetry prize, but her poetry was significant during the earlier bohemian movement because she presented a woman who was not sensitive but sexually driven. As Melissa Bradshaw points out in her essay “Performing Greenwich Village bohemianism” for the Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York, “No one exemplified this spirit of daring New Womanhood, as sexually driven as any man and just as wary of entrapment, like the Village golden girl, Edna St. Vincent Millay” (153).
In many ways, she was a precursor to the more explicit questioning of sexuality and sexual norms that would come from the Village, through the Beat Poets with pieces like “Howl,” by Allen Ginsberg, The New York Dolls and their performances in Drag, and Patti Smith’s poetry and music which questioned gender and pushed its boundaries.
Millay was also able to capture the carefree attitude of the Village in her poem “Recuerdo,” “We were very tired, we were very merry–/We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry” (155). As Bradshaw points out, it argues doing something for fun is worthwhile, a common theme in the Village.
Up Next: Minetta Tavern and MacDougal Street