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In 1916, May Sarton's family fled World War I Belgium for the USA, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father taught part-time at Harvard and devoted his life to the study of the history of science. May enrolled in the Shady Hill School and developed her lifelong love for poetry. She later wrote eloquently of these years in her memoir I Knew a Phoenix. When she was 12, May Sarton traveled back to Belgium for a year to live with the Limbosch family, studying at the Institut Belge de Culture Française. It was here she met Marie Closset, the school's founder (who wrote poetry under the pen name Jean Dominique). Closset remained a close friend and mentor of May Sarton's and became the inspiration for her first novel, The Single Hound. Although winning a scholarship to Vassar after high school, May was smitten by the theater and determined to join Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre in New York. Even while spending a year as an actor apprentice, Sarton wrote poetry. At the age of 17, she published a series of sonnets in Poetry Magazine, some of which were included in her first published volume, Encounter in April (1937). In 1931, at nineteen, Sarton went to live in Paris for a year. This marked the beginning of a life-long habit of annual visits to Europe, meeting prominent artists, including Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, and Julian and Juliette Huxley. Her aspirations to act and direct dissolved in 1935 when her own Associated Actors Theatre failed, a victim of the Depression. From that point forward, Sarton turned to writing as her life's profession and never looked back. In 1968, Sarton's landmark memoir Plant Dreaming Deep, appeared, a book for which Carolyn Heilbrun credited Sarton with opening vistas for creative women by suggesting that a single woman, living alone, can have universal truths to tell.
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