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“The democracy of universal vulnerability”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune takes a look at Marion Janssen’s biography of the long-lost Modernist Isabella Stewart Gardner:
Born in 1915 into a wealthy Boston family, lively, lovely Isabella grew up amid privilege and dysfunction; became a globe-trotting actress whose first lover was Erskine Hamilton Childers, the future president of Ireland; had four husbands and two children; edited Chicago’s influential Poetry Magazine; gave away millions of dollars to friends and sycophants; was abused by ill-chosen lovers; lost her children to horrific events; aged rapidly via heavy drinking, and died alone in a hotel room in 1981.
Sounds fascinating, but what about her poems?
Janssen examines a great deal of Gardner’s poetry, and it is fine, but, ultimately, not as interesting as her life, a largely grim drama that starred scores of characters — patricians and poets, artists and activists, wannabes and wastrels, ad men and madmen.