Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell, American poet

Amy Lowell (February 9, 1874 – May 12, 1925) was an American poet known for a form of poetry called Imagism. The product of a wealthy Brookline, MA, family, Lowell was known for her forceful personality and habits, which included smoking cigars and using radical language. Women of the Lowell family weren’t allowed to attend college, so Amy read as well as collected books quite avidly.

Imagist poetry, according to her is, “concentration is of the very essence of poetry” and aimed to “produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.” Her first collection of poems, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, was published in 1912, to a tepid response.  Around the same time, she began a relationship with an actress, Ada Dwyer Russell.

A trip to Europe brought her into contact with poet Ezra Pound who was both an influence on her work, and also a critic of  it — he believed that she somehow usurped the imagist movement. Despite her inauspicious beginnings as a published poet, Lowell saw more success as her career progressed. Her poetry was widely published in magazines and other publications. Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (1914), a collection of poems enjoyed much favorable attention, as did her collection of literary criticism, Six French Poets (1915).

Lowell’s energy was legendary — she lectured tirelessly to promote poetry, and wrote ceaselessly — in addition to more than 650 poems, she wrote numerous essays, as well as works of criticism and translation. She suffered from a glandular disorder that caused many health problems, and in 1925, at age 51, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. In 1926 she won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for What’s O’Clock. Lowell’s work faded from favor for some time, but the women’s movement of the 1970’s brought renewed attention to her work.

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Amy Lowell Quotes

Amy Lowell, Time magazine cover 1925“All books are either dreams or swords, you can cut, you can drug, with words.” (Selected Poems of Amy Lowell, 1928)

“Polyphonic prose is a kind of free verse, except that it is still freer. Polyphonic makes full use of cadence, rime, alliteration, assonance.” (Preface Can Grande’s Castle, 1921)

“Even Pain pricks to livelier living.”

“Sexual love is the most stupendous fact of the universe, and the most magical mystery our poor blind senses know.”

“Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.”

“Don’t ask a writer what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer on the progress of his disease.”

“It has, I think, every cliché and technical error which a poem can have, but it has loosed a bolt in my brain and I found out where my true function lay.” (on her first poem, Oct 21, 1902)

“For books are more than books, they are the life
The very heart and core of ages past,
The reason why men lived and worked and died,
The essence and quintessence of their lives.”

“In science, read by preference the newest works. In literature, read the oldest. The classics are always modern.”

“You are ice and fire
the touch of you burns my hands like snow.”

“I am tired, beloved, of chafing my heart against the want of you; of squeezing it into little ink drops, and posting it. And I scald alone, here, under the fire of the great moon.”

Amy Lowell“Let us be of cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come.”

“Happiness: We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good.”

 

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