Poem Sampler

From the Archive: Amy Lowell

Selections from Lowell's image and music-laden poems, first published in Poetry magazine.
By The Editors
"However annoyed we get with each other in the course of business (and I think in a mild way that is inevitable), I know you to be as truthful and honest as the Rock of Ages, one of the most so of anybody I have ever seen, and I cordially admire all you have done, and are doing for the cause of poetry, even if at the same time I do not think you quite rate me at my true valuation."
— Amy Lowell to Harriet Monroe, 1916



Poetry is my mother," and Chicago "my adopted city...the city of my heart," wrote Amy Lowell to Harriet Monroe. "I was immensely struck by the fact that there is not a single poet of distinction among the younger generation whom you have not printed. So go on, my child, never mind any of us when we criticize."

Harriet Monroe—fourteen years Lowell's senior—was, of course, anything but Lowell's inferior, but that never stopped Lowell from wielding her self-proclaimed "straight as a die" attitude in order to get what she wanted, namely recognition as a modern poet and membership in Ezra Pound's group of Imagists. In fact, much of Lowell's recognition is owed to her connection to Pound, who once wrote of her that she possessed "everything but genius"—that is, before Lowell wrote Pound out of her book Tendencies in American Poetry, sparking a rivalry bordering on the operatic, perhaps necessarily so given the irascible nature of both figures.

Lowell was indeed pugnacious and cunning; nonetheless, her highly dynamic presence was inescapable in the pages of Poetry both creatively and financially, publishing more than 60 poems, in addition to her prose and reviews. Upon hearing about Monroe's proposal to start the magazine, Lowell immediately sent a donation of $25.00—"knowing that every little helps"—and continued sending an annual donation of $200.00 for over a decade, not including a payment to advertise her dogs as companions for "poets and other literary workers."

Expert in politicking, Lowell was an inexhaustible letter writer and autodidact, exchanging more than 580 letters with Monroe—some pushing to see her own poems published in the magazine, some trying to influence Monroe's editorial decisions, and some working to shape the way in which Lowell's work was viewed within the context of the whole of modern poetry. Her self-consciously musical and image-laden poetry is sometimes difficult to read without also sensing the almost palpable specter of figures like Pound and H.D. in the background, but to leave Lowell out of the story of Imagism and the early years of Poetry would be to distort not only the magazine's content in its early years, but also its history and lore.


Originally Published: November 1st, 2007
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