Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize to Recognize Achievement in Poetry at the University of Maine

Contact: Prof. Steve Evans, (207) 581-3818

ORONO — A new University of Maine endowment fund will support graduate student achievement in poetry.

The Frank and Helene Crohn Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize was established by the Crohns, of Rhinebeck, N.Y., through a $300,000 gift held at the University of Maine Foundation.

Building on the University of Maine National Poetry Foundation’s reputation as an international center for the study and creation of poetry in the Modernist tradition, the Frank and Helene Crohn Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize will reward achievement in poetry at a crucial stage in a writer’s development while commemorating the legacy of one of Maine’s best known and beloved poets. Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was born 118 years ago today, herself received the gift of an education at Vassar College in part through the generosity of benefactor Caroline B. Dow.

Frank Crohn became interested in Millay at an early age because of his mother’s love of Millay’s poetry. In later years, Crohn became an avid collector of the works of 19th and 20th century novelists and poets. It was at a 1980 book dealers’ event at Steepletop, Millay’s beloved home in the Berkshires, that Crohn became interested in the Millay Society. He has been a member of the society for several years and has been an active member of the board of trustees for the past ten years.

The Crohns have connections to Maine through a restaurant they co-owned in Downeast Maine and to the University of Maine through their support of the university’s Lobster Institute.

Steve Evans, a UMaine English professor who co-directs the National Poetry Foundation (NPF), says the establishment of the Millay Prize represents a major new initiative on the part of the NPF, which was founded at UMaine in 1971.

“This gift will permit the NPF to recognize and reward the accomplishments of the talented poets who attend our master’s program in English,” says Evans. “Just as Millay’s own education was furthered by the financial patronage of Caroline B. Dow and others, so our graduate students, those currently enrolled, and those whom we hope to recruit, will benefit from the generous support that Frank and Helene Crohn have made available through their visionary act of generosity.”

“The National Poetry Foundation established its reputation by focusing scholarly attention on the work of poets like William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound,” Evans adds. “It is a real pleasure to welcome Millay, a Maine native, into that company and to honor her legacy by supporting aspiring poets at a formative stage in their vocation.”

The Crohns intend that the recipient of the Millay Prize always be a University of Maine graduate student.

“Edna St. Vincent Millay died in 1950, but her work is still alive today,” says Frank Crohn. “As a young woman, Millay was part of a group of poets who were leaders in the literary movement of the time. It is our wish to have the next generation know Millay and the importance of her work, which is still very relevant today. Millay’s much quoted verse, ‘My candle burns at both ends. It will not last the night; But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends It gives a lovely light,’ speaks to every generation.”

The winner of the annual Millay Prize will receive $1,500 and be invited to read from their winning manuscript at a special event, the first of which is planned for the fall of 2010. As earnings from endowment investments continue to grow, the prize is expected to reach upwards of $15,000 annually.

The University of Maine, founded in 1865, is the state’s premier public university, located in the town of Orono. It is among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast and attracts students from across the U.S. and more than 60 countries. It currently enrolls 12,000 total undergraduate and graduate students who can directly participate in groundbreaking research working with world-class scholars. Students are offered 88 bachelor’s degree programs, 64 master’s degree programs, 25 doctoral programs and one of the oldest and most prestigious honors programs in the U.S. The university promotes environmental stewardship on its campus, with substantial efforts aimed at conserving energy, recycling and adhering to green building standards in new construction. For more information about the University of Maine visit http://www.umaine.edu