Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

Infobox Writer
name = Amy Lawrence Lowell
birthname = Amy Lawrence Lowell
birthdate = birth date|1874|2|9|mf=y
birthplace = Brookline, Massachusetts
deathdate = death date and age|1925|5|12|1874|2|9|mf=y
deathplace =
occupation = Poet
awards = Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Amy Lawrence Lowell (February 9, 1874May 12, 1925) was an American poet of the imagist school from Brookline, Massachusetts who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926.

Personal life and career

Lowell was born into Brookline's prominent Lowell family. One brother, Percival Lowell, was a famous astronomer who predicted the existence of the dwarf planet Pluto and believed the canals on Mars showed it hosted living intelligence; another brother, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, served as President of Harvard University.

She never attended college because her family did not deem it proper for a woman, but she compensated for this with avid reading and near-obsessive book-collecting. She lived as a socialite and travelled widely, turning to poetry in 1902 after being inspired by a performance of Eleonora Duse in Europe. Her first published work appeared in 1910 in "Atlantic Monthly". The first published collection of her poetry, "A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass", appeared two years later in 1912. Her other published books of poetry were titled, respectively, "Sword Blades and Poppy Seed"; "Men, Women and Ghosts"; "Can Grande's Castle"; "Pictures of the Floating World"; "Legends"; "Fir-Flower Tablets"; "A Critical Fable"; "What's O'Clock"; "East Wind"; and "Ballads for Sale". An additional group of uncollected poems was added to the volume "The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell", published in 1955 with an introduction by Louis Untermeyer (who considered himself her friend).

Lowell not only published her own work but also that of other writers. According to Untermyer, she "captured" the Imagist movemnt from Ezra Pound. Pound threatened to sue her for bringing out her three-volume series "Some Imagist Poets", and thereafter called the American Imagists the "Amygist" movement. Pound criticized her as not an imagist but merely a rich woman who was able to financially assist the publication of imagist poetry. She said that Imagism was weak before she took it up, whereas others said it became weak after Pound's "exile" towards Vorticism.

Throughout her working life Lowell was a promoter of both contemporary and historical poets. Her book "Fir-Flower Poets" was a poetical re-working of literal translations of the works of ancient Chinese poets, notably Li T'Ai-po (A.D. 701-762). Her writing also included critical works on French literature. When she died she was attempting to complete her two-volume biography of John Keats. Lowell was said to be lesbian, and in 1912 she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell were reputed to be lovers. Russell was Lowell's patron and the subject of her more erotic work. The two women traveled to England together, where Lowell met Ezra Pound, who at once became a major influence and a major critic of her work. Lowell has been linked romantically to writer Mercedes de Acosta, but the only evidence that they knew each other at all is the brief correspondence between them about a memorial for Duse that never took place.

Lowell was a short but imposing figure who kept her hair in a bun and wore a pince-nez. She smoked cigars constantly, claiming that they lasted longer than cigarettes. A glandular problem kept her perpetually overweight, so that poet Witter Bynner once said, in a cruel comment repeated by Ezra Pound and thereafter commonly misattributed to him, that she was a "hippopoetess." Writing of Keats, Lowell said that "The stigma of oddness is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius."

Though she sometimes wrote sonnets, Lowell was an early adherent to the "free verse" method of poetry and one of the major champions of this method. Untermeyer writes that "She was not only a disturber but an awakener." In many poems she dispenses with line breaks so that the work looks like prose on the page.

Lowell died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925 at the age of 51. The following year, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for "What's O'Clock". That collection included the patriotic poem "Lilacs," which Untermeyer said was the poem of hers she liked best.

In the post-World War II years, Lowell, like other women writers, was largely forgotten, but with the renascence of the women's movement in the 1970s, women's studies brought her back to light. According to Heywood Broun, however, Lowell personally argued against feminism.

Additional sources of interest in Lowell today come from the anti-war sentiment of the oft-taught poem "Patterns"; her personification of inanimate objects, as in "The Green Bowl," and "The Red Lacquer Music Stand"; and her lesbian themes, including the collection of love poems addressed to Ada Dwyer Russell.

External links

* [ Poems by Amy Lowell] An extensive collection of Lowell's poetry.
* [ Poetry or parody?] A quiz.
* March 26, 1916, New York Times, [ How Does the New Poetry Differ from the Old?; Amy Lowell Laments the Lack of Authoritative Criticism in America -- Says No One Should Make a Living by Writing]


* Amy Lowell: Complete Poetical Works and Selected Writings in 6 vols., edited by Naoki Ohnishi, Kyoto: Eureka Press. ISBN 978-4-902454-29-1
* The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell with an introduction by Louis Untermeyer. Boston, Massachusetts: The Houghton Mifflin Company (The Riverside Press, Cambridge), 1955.

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