Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography
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The controversial American poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925), a founding member of the Imagist group that included D. H. Lawrence and H. D., excelled as the impresario for the “new poetry” that became news across the U. S. in the years after World War I. Maligned by T. S. Eliot as the “demon saleswoman” of poetry, and ridiculed by Ezra Pound, Lowell has been treated by previous biographers as an obese, sex-starved, inferior poet who smoked cigars and made a spectacle of herself, canvassing the country on lecture tours that drew crowds in the hundreds for her electrifying performances.
In fact, Lowell wrote some of the finest love lyrics of the 20th century and led a full and loving life with her constant companion, the retired actress Ada Russell. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1926. This provocative new biography, the first in forty years, restores Amy Lowell to her full humanity in an era that, at last, is beginning to appreciate the contributions of gays and lesbians to American’s cultural heritage. Drawing on newly discovered letters and papers, Rollyson’s biography finally gives this vibrant poet her due.
offered me a contract. Shortly afterwards, my good luck was magnified by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers, xi xii A CKN O WL E D GM E N TS which helped support me in a sabbatical year, during which I laid the groundwork for this biography, published as Amy Lowell Among Her Contemporaries. I made well over a dozen trips to the Harvard archive, funded by the PSC/CUNY Research Award program, sponsored by the Professional Staff Congress and the City
Elizabeth Seccombe, signals the advent of a modern sensibility still struggling within the conflicted, if stilted, lines of “A Fixed Idea”: You lie upon my heart as on a nest, Folded in peace, for you can never know How crushed I am with having you at rest Heavy upon my life. I love you so You bind my freedom from its rightful quest. In mercy lift your drooping wings and go. Because Lowell destroyed the drafts of her poems that might have documented dates of composition, what the relationship
College, had “less instinctive knowledge of literature than almost any one else. . . . As I told a girls’ school some time ago, there is no necessity for liking poetry. If you do not like it, let it alone. You will lose but that is all the harm that will be done.” 16 The flurry of activity subsided in September as Lowell anticipated her hernia operation. After consulting with a surgeon in New York City, she visited the offices of her publisher. On August 20, she had written to George Brett about
Boston’s Childrens’ Hospital, Lowell put her car at his disposal. Accompanied by Ada, she came to visit O’Conor and his wife at the Hotel Bellevue, where they were residing temporarily. He remembered that at the end of Lowell’s visit, as they were approaching the elevator, she gave him a keen look and said that while he had endured the first “shock of grief,” he could expect later to “feel its full impact. She assured me—and her prophecy was fulfilled—that this delayed reaction would be more
vision of that large, airy ring you used to have, and four or five of us riding round and round and round it, as we used to . . . pleasantest memories of those days. 10 CHA P TE R 1 Riding horses may have been hazardous, but driving them was another matter. “I was practically brought up in a stable,” Lowell recalled, “since our old coachman was an ex-New Market jockey and knew more about horses than anybody I have ever seen, and my affection and love for them led me to spend all the hours