Mae V. Cowdery

by Frank Jin

(No Picture of Mae.V Cowdery Found)
Picture of life during the Harlem Renaissance period

Mae Virginia Cowdery, born in January 10, 1909, was the only child of a Social Worker mother, and a Caterer. She showed much talent in poetry since childhood, and published three of her poems in a local Philadelphia Journal called the Black Opals, and also won first place in a poetry contest sponsored by The Crisis. Not many pictures are recorded of her, however, a lost picture that was taken in The Crisis magazine showed a woman of unusual beauty.

Her poetry is said to be inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay, whom she may or may not have known while she was living in the Village. Her poems were always erotic or lustful, and the poetry she wrote in her mid. thirties suggested she had a daughter, no such records were recoded.

However, even though getting such honors and awards at a very early age in life, Mae V. Cowdery fell into a depression in 1936, and took her own life in New York City in 1953, at the age of 44.

Poetry Analysis

"If I Must Know"

1 If I must know Sorrow
2 to live
3 then burden my soul
4 with the frustrated dreams
5 of good Women!

6 If I must know Torture
7 to live
8 then bind me with vows
9 to Complacency!

10 If I must know Love
11 to live
12 Then be Quick...!
13 Give me back this elusive thing
14 The Gods call Love...!


1.Reaction: This poem struck me like she was listing all the things that she did not want to understand and get to know, but was forced to know in order to continue on living.
2. Not much has been recorded of Mae V. Cowdery, but the poem ties with how no one knows that she had a husband, so maybe she was looking for love her entire life. She also writes poems suggesting she had a daughter, which may have been false, but just reflecting her desire to have a child to love.
3. Line 4: Frustrated Dreams - Imagery and animation of fighting and conflicting dreams.
Line 8: Personification: Vows binding her like humans binding her.
Line 13: Description of Love as a tangible thing which is extremely hard to get.
Lines 1, 6,10: same start of stanza.
Lines 2,7,11: Same words in the same part of each part.
4.Structure: No Rhymes, but same start of first line, and same second line in each stanza.
5. Tone: Semi- Forceful with parts with passion.

Works Cited