Her poem “Of the Labyrinth-Women” remains highly anthologized, with its haunting and lyrical language oft-quoted:

for they are the labyrinth-women
twisted within as twisted without
bent inwards upon a mockery of a path
forward to dark and darkward to death

– M. Alethia Markridge, Of the Labyrinth-Women (1935), third stanza.

For all the success and fame that her poetry brought, Alethia Markridge did not live a happy life. She increasingly turned to alcohol and isolation, to the point that her daughter Olive was all but abandoned with her parents in Montauk. “I feel a husk,” she wrote in a 1937 letter, “squeezed-out dull as the name I hide behind full-stops before my true self.”

In the later years of her life, and especially after the publication of A Thousand Strands to the Present in early 1938, Markridge became increasingly obsessed with her first name, Marie, by which she had rarely been called but upon which her devoutly Catholic grandmother had insisted. She called it her “true self” in many letters, and wrote of her fear that it presaged a domestic mundanity to which she was doomed. “To return to the washboard and the oven, the husk-party and gossip-mongery…that is what I fear the most,” she confided in a 1939 note to her sister. “I say return because I feel that all I have ever done and will ever do is but a postponement of the destiny inherited by a million Maries, the destiny they’ll pass on to a hundred more.

Markridge’s final collection, tentatively titled Love-Serenade to the Maries of the Universe, was never completed.

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