Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale (1884 - 1933)

Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884 – January 29, 1933) was an American lyrical poet. She was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sara’s major themes were love, nature’s beauty, and death, and her poems were much loved during the early 20th century. In 1918 she won the Columbia University Poetry Society prize (the forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry) and the annual prize of the Poetry Society of America for her volume, Love Songs. Her style and lyricism are well illustrated in her poem, Spring Night (1915), from that collection.

Throughout her life, Sara suffered poor health and it was not until she was nine that she was judged healthy enough to begin school – a private school for children just one block away from her home. In 1898 she attended Mary Institute, and the following year she enrolled in Hosmer Hall, from which she graduated in 1903. Her influences included the actress Duse, whom she never saw perform, the British poet Christina Rossetti, and numerous trips to Europe, beginning in 1905.

In 1913, Sara was courted by two admirers. The poet Vachel Lindsay fell in love with her and at one point was sending her long, fantastic love letters on a daily basis. He asked her to marry him, but though she had deep feelings for Vachel, she instead married Ernst Filsinger, a businessman, in 1914. The following year they moved to New York City, which became her home for the rest of her life. Sara and Vachel remained fond but platonic friends throughout their lives, and Lindsay said that she was his life’s “most inspiring, most satisfying friend.” She was the inspiration for what Lindsay believed to be his greatest poem, The Chinese Nightingale.

Sara was very much a product of her Victorian upbringing, and she was never able to experience in life the passion that she expressed in her poetry. She was not happy in her marriage, and she divorced Ernst in 1929, against his wishes. Sara’s health further declined. On the morning of January 29, 1933, in her New York City apartment, Sara took an overdose of sleeping pills, lay down in a warm bath, fell asleep, and never woke up again. Her last, and some say her finest, collection of verse, Strange Victory, was published posthumously that same year.

She is interred in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.