Poets | Bookstore | Poem of the Day | Top 40 | Search | Comments | Privacy
July 13th, 2014 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 111,284 comments.
Biography of Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925)

Amy Lowell didn't become a poet until she was years into her adulthood; then, when she died early, her poetry (and life) were nearly forgotten -- until gender studies as a discipline began to look at women like Lowell as illustrative of an earlier lesbianism. She lived her later years in a "Boston marriage" and wrote erotic love poems addressed to a woman.

T. S. Eliot called her the "demon saleswoman of poetry." Of herself, she said, "God made me a businesswoman and I made myself a poet."

Amy Lowell was born to wealth and prominence. Her paternal grandfather, John Amory Lowell, developed the cotton industry of Massachusetts with her maternal grandfather, Abbott Lawrence. The towns of Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, are named for the families. John Amory Lowell's cousin was the poet James Russell Lowell.

Amy was the youngest child of five. Her eldest brother, Percival Lowell, became an astronomer in his late 30's and founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. He discovered the "canals" of Mars. Earlier he'd written two books inspired by his travels to Japan and the Far East. Amy Lowell's other brother, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, became president of Harvard University.

The family home was called "Sevenels" for the "Seven L's" or Lowells. Amy Lawrence was educated there by an English governess until 1883, when she was sent to a series of private schools. She was far from a model student. During vacations, she traveled with her family to Europe and to America's west.

In 1891, as a proper young lady from a wealthy family, she had her debut. She was invited to numerous parties, but did not get the marriage proposal that the year was supposed to produce. A university education was out of the question for a Lowell daughter, although not for the sons. So Amy Lowell set about educating herself, reading from the 7,000 volume library of her father and also taking advantage of the Boston Athenaeum.

Mostly she lived the life of a wealthy socialite. She began a lifelong habit of book collecting. She accepted a marriage proposal, but the young man changed his mind and set his heart on another woman. Amy Lowell went to Europe and Egypt in 1897-98 to recover, living on a severe diet that was supposed to improve her health (and help with her increasing weight problem). Instead, the diet nearly ruined her health.

In 1900, after her parents had both died, she bought the family home, Sevenels. Her life as a socialite continued, with parties and entertaining. She also took up the civic involvement of her father, especially in supporting education and libraries.

Amy had enjoyed writing, but her efforts at writing plays didn't meet with her own satisfaction. She was fascinated by the theater. In 1893 and 1896, she had seen performances by the actress Eleanora Duse. In 1902, after seeing Duse on another tour, Amy went home and wrote a tribute to her in blank verse -- and, as she later said, "I found out where my true function lay." She became a poet -- or, as she also later said, "made myself a poet."

By 1910, her first poem was published in Atlantic Monthly, and three others were accepted there for publication. In 1912 -- a year that also saw the first books published by Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay -- she published her first collection of poetry, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass.

It was also in 1912 that Amy Lowell met actress Ada Dwyer Russell. From about 1914 on, Russell, a widow who was 11 years older than Lowell, became Amy's traveling and living companion and secretary. They lived together in a "Boston marriage" until Amy's death. Whether the relationship was platonic or sexual is not certain -- Ada burned all personal correspondence as executrix for Amy after her death -- but poems which Amy clearly directed towards Ada are sometimes erotic and full of suggestive imagery.

In the January 1913 issue of Poetry, Amy read a poem signed by "H.D., Imagiste." With a sense of recognition, she decided that she, too, was an Imagist, and by summer had gone to London to meet Ezra Pound and other Imagist poets, armed with a letter of introduction from Poetry editor Harriet Monroe.

She returned to England again the next summer -- this time bringing her maroon auto and maroon-coated chauffeur, part of her eccentric persona. She returned to America just as World War I began, having sent that maroon auto on ahead of her.

She was already by that time feuding with Pound, who termed her version of Imagism "Amygism." She focused herself on writing poetry in the new style, and also on promoting and sometimes literally supporting other poets who were also part of the Imagist movement.

In 1914, she published her second book of poetry, Sword Blades and Poppy Seeds. Many of the poems were in vers libre (free verse), which she renamed "unrhymed cadence." A few were in a form she invented, which she called "polyphonic prose."

In 1915, Amy Lowell published an anthology of Imagist verse, followed by new volumes in 1916 and 1917. Her own lecture tours began in 1915, as she talked of poetry and also read her own works. She was a popular speaker, often speaking to overflow crowds. Perhaps the novelty of the Imagist poetry drew people; perhaps they were drawn to the performances in part because she was a Lowell; in part her reputation for eccentricities helped bring in the people.

She slept until three in the afternoon and worked through the night. She was overweight, and a glandular condition was diagnosed which caused her to continue to gain. (Ezra Pound called her "hippopoetess.") She was operated on several times for persistent hernia problems.

She dressed mannishly, in severe suits and men's shirts. She wore a pince nez and had her hair done -- usually by Ada Russell -- in a pompadour that added a bit of height to her five feet. She slept on a custom-made bed with exactly sixteen pillows. She kept sheepdogs -- at least until World War I's meat rationing made her give them up -- and had to give guests towels to put in their laps to protect them from the dogs' affectionate habits. She draped mirrors and stopped clocks. And, perhaps most famously, she smoked cigars -- not "big, black" ones as was sometimes reported, but small cigars, which she claimed were less distracting to her work than cigarettes, because they lasted longer.

In 1915, she also ventured into criticism with Six French Poets, featuring Symbolist poets little known in America. In 1916, she published another volume of her own verse, Men, Women and Ghosts. A book derived from her lectures, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry followed in 1917, then another poetry collection in 1918, Can Grande's Castle and Pictures of the Floating World in 1919 and adaptations of myths and legends in 1921 in Legends.

During an illness in 1922 she wrote and published A Critical Fable - anonymously. For some months she denied that she'd written it. Her relative, James Russell Lowell, had published in his generation A Fable for Critics, witty and pointed verse analyzing poets who were his contemporaries. Amy Lowell's A Critical Fable likewise skewered her own poetic contemporaries.

She worked for the next few years on a massive biography of John Keats, whose works she'd been collecting since 1905. Almost a day-by-day account of his life, the book also recognized Fanny Brawne for the first time as a positive influence on him.

This work was taxing on Lowell's health, though. She nearly ruined her eyesight, and her hernias continued to cause her trouble. In May of 1925, she was advised to remain in bed with a troublesome hernia. On May 12 she got out of bed anyway, and was struck with a massive cerebral hemorrhage. She died hours later.

Ada Russell, her executrix, not only burned all personal correspondence, as directed by Amy Lowell, but also published three more volumes of Lowell's poems posthumously. These included some late sonnets to Eleanora Duse, who had died in 1912 herself, and other poems considered too controversial for Lowell to publish during her lifetime. Lowell left her fortune and Sevenels in trust to Ada Russell.

The Imagist movement didn't outlive Amy Lowell for long. Her poems didn't withstand the test of time well, and while a few of her poems ("Patterns" and "Lilacs" especially) were still studied and anthologized, she was nearly forgotten.

Then, Lillian Faderman and others rediscovered Amy Lowell as an example of poets and others whose same-sex relationships had been important to them in their lives, but who had -- for obvious social reasons -- not been explicit and open about those relationships. Faderman and others re-examined poems like "Clear, With Light Variable Winds" or "Venus Transiens" or "Taxi" or "A Lady" and found the theme -- barely concealed -- of the love of women. "A Decade," which had been written as a celebration of the ten year anniversary of Ada and Amy's relationship, and the "Two Speak Together" section of Pictures of the Floating World was recognized for the love poetry that it is.

The theme was not completely concealed, of course, especially to those who knew the couple well. John Livingston Lowes, a friend of Amy Lowell's, had recognized Ada as the object of one of her poems, and Lowell wrote back to him, "I am very glad indeed that you liked 'Madonna of the Evening Flowers.' How could so exact a portrait remain unrecognized?"

And so, too, the portrait of the committed relationship and love of Amy Lowell and Ada Dwyer Russell was largely unrecognized until recently.

Her "Sisters" -- alluding to the sisterhood that included Lowell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Dickinson -- makes it clear that Amy Lowell saw herself as part of a continuing tradition of women poets.



152 Poems written by Amy Lowell

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | Page Views | Comments | [First Lines]


First LineComments
"Hullo, Alice!" Comments and analysis of The Grocery by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
'T is you that are the music, not your song. Comments and analysis of Listening by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
1 Comments and analysis of The Great Adventure of Max Breuck by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
"`I can't get
After a Print by George Cruikshank Comments and analysis of Nightmare:  A Tale for an Autumn Evening by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
To Ezra Pound;With Comments and analysis of Astigmatism by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
Written after reading Trevelyan's "Garibaldi
A bullet through his heart at dawn. On Comments and analysis of The Cross-Roads by Amy Lowell 17 Comments
A drifting, April, twilight sky, Comments and analysis of Sword Blades and Poppy Seed by Amy Lowell 22 Comments
A face seen passing in a crowded street, Comments and analysis of Hero-Worship by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
A flickering glimmer through a window-pane,
A little garden on a bleak hillside
A Minstrel stands on a marble stair, Comments and analysis of The Road to Avignon by Amy Lowell 7 Comments
A music-stand of crimson lacquer, long since brought
A near horizon whose sharp jags
All night I wrestled with a memory
Always we are following a light,
An arid daylight shines along the beach Comments and analysis of Irony by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
April had covered the hills Comments and analysis of Azure and Gold by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
As for a moment he stands, in hardy masculine beauty, Comments and analysis of 2 Comments
As I would free the white almond from the green husk
As one who sails upon a wide, blue sea
At first a mere thread of a footpath half blotted Comments and analysis of The Way by Amy Lowell 10 Comments
August 14th, 1914 Comments and analysis of The Allies by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Bath Comments and analysis of Spring Day by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
Be not angry with me that I bear Comments and analysis of Apology by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Be patient with you? Comments and analysis of Patience by Amy Lowell 46 Comments
Before me lies a mass of shapeless days,
Before the Altar, bowed, he stands Comments and analysis of Before the Altar by Amy Lowell 43 Comments
Beneath this sod lie the remains
Between us leapt a gold and scarlet flame. Comments and analysis of The Temple by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Blue through the window burns the twilight;
But why did I kill him? Why? Why? Comments and analysis of After Hearing a Waltz by Bartok by Amy Lowell 40 Comments
By day you cannot see the sky
Cloud-topped and splendid, dominating all
Cross-hatchings of rain against grey walls,
Cross-ribboned shoes; a muslin gown,
Dear Bessie, would my tired rhyme
Dear Virgin Mary, far away, Comments and analysis of Sancta Maria, Succurre Miseris by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
Dearest, forgive that with my clumsy touch
First Movement Comments and analysis of Stravinsky's Three Pieces  by Amy Lowell 7 Comments
Fish Comments and analysis of The Dinner-Party by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
GEORGE AUGUSTUS CLOUGH
Glinting golden through the trees, Comments and analysis of Apples of Hesperides by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Goaded and harassed in the factory Comments and analysis of The Matrix by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Good ev'nin', Mis' Priest. Comments and analysis of Off the Turnpike by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
Great master! Boyish, sympathetic man! Comments and analysis of To John Keats by Amy Lowell 4 Comments
Guarded within the old red wall's embrace, Comments and analysis of A Tulip Garden by Amy Lowell 28 Comments
Gushing from the mouths of stone men Comments and analysis of In a Garden by Amy Lowell 4 Comments
Happiness, to some, elation; Comments and analysis of Happiness by Amy Lowell 52 Comments
Have at you, you Devils! Comments and analysis of The Foreigner by Amy Lowell 14 Comments
He perches in the slime, inert, Comments and analysis of The Coal Picker by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
He shouts in the sails of the ships at sea, Comments and analysis of Wind by Amy Lowell 35 Comments
Hey! My daffodil-crowned,
High up above the open, welcoming door Comments and analysis of A Japanese Wood-Carving by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
High up in the apple tree climbing I go, Comments and analysis of Climbing by Amy Lowell 33 Comments
Hold your apron wide
Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Holy Mother of God, Merciful Mary. Hear
How empty seems the town now you are gone!
How is it that, being gone, you fill my days,
How long shall I tarnish the mirror of life,
How should I sing when buffeting salt waves
How still it is! Sunshine itself here
I
I Comments and analysis of A Roxbury Garden by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
I Comments and analysis of Pickthorn Manor by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
I Comments and analysis of Malmaison by Amy Lowell 10 Comments
I Comments and analysis of In a Castle by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
I Comments and analysis of The Basket by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
I
I ask but one thing of you, only one, Comments and analysis of To a Friend by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
I do not care to talk to you although
I have been temperate always,
I have whetted my brain until it is like a Damascus
I know a country laced with roads,
I learnt to write to you in happier days,
I own a solace shut within my heart, Comments and analysis of Behind a Wall by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
I pray to be the tool which to your hand
I walk down the garden paths, Comments and analysis of Patterns by Amy Lowell 68 Comments
I will mix me a drink of stars, -- Comments and analysis of Vintage by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
In the brown water, Comments and analysis of The Pike by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
It winds along the face of a cliff
Leisure, thou goddess of a bygone age, Comments and analysis of Leisure by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
Life is a stream Comments and analysis of Petals by Amy Lowell 7 Comments
Life! Austere arbiter of each man's fate,
Look, Dear, how bright the moonlight is to-night!
Must all of worth be travailled for, and those Comments and analysis of In Darkness by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
My cup is empty to-night, Comments and analysis of Absence by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
My Grandpapa lives in a wonderful house Comments and analysis of The Painted Ceiling by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
My heart is like a cleft pomegranate
My heart is tuned to sorrow, and the strings
Naughty little speckled trout,
Near where I live there is a lake
Now what in the name of the sun and the stars
Oh! To be a flower Comments and analysis of Song by Amy Lowell 18 Comments
On winter nights beside the nursery fire
Outside the long window, Comments and analysis of Fool's Money Bags by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Over the housetops, Comments and analysis of The Captured Goddess by Amy Lowell 58 Comments
Pale, with the blue of high zeniths, shimmered
Panels of claret and blue which shine Comments and analysis of The Exeter Road by Amy Lowell 4 Comments
Part First
Paul Jannes was working very late, Comments and analysis of The Shadow by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
Red slippers in a shop-window, and outside in the Comments and analysis of Red Slippers by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
Reign of Louis Philippe
Sea Shell, Sea Shell, Comments and analysis of Sea Shell by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
See! I give myself to you, Beloved! Comments and analysis of A Gift by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Slipping softly through the sky Comments and analysis of The Crescent Moon by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the
Softly the water ripples
Some men there are who find in nature all Comments and analysis of Summer by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Spread on the roadway,
Streaks of green and yellow iridescence,
Study in Whites
Swept, clean, and still, across the polished floor
Tang of fruitage in the air;
The Bell in the convent tower swung. Comments and analysis of The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
The Fool Errant sat by the highway of life
The fountain bent and straightened itself
The lawyer, are you? Comments and analysis of Number 3 on the Docket by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
The little boy pressed his face against the window-pane
The neighbour sits in his window and plays the flute. Comments and analysis of Music by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
The nursery fire burns brightly, crackling in cheerful Comments and analysis of Lead Soldiers by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
The path runs straight between the flowering rows,
The rain gullies the garden paths Comments and analysis of The Tree of Scarlet Berries by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
The stars hang thick in the apple tree,
The tall yellow hollyhocks stand, Comments and analysis of The Precinct.  Rochester by Amy Lowell 5 Comments
The wind is singing through the trees to-night, Comments and analysis of At Night by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
There once was a man whom the gods didn't love, Comments and analysis of A Tale of Starvation by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
There was a man Comments and analysis of The Painter on Silk by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
They have watered the street, Comments and analysis of A London Thoroughfare.  2 A.M. by Amy Lowell 5 Comments
This little bowl is like a mossy pool Comments and analysis of The Green Bowl by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
Thou dear and well-loved haunt of happy hours, Comments and analysis of The Boston Athenaeum by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
Thou father of the children of my brain
Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring! Comments and analysis of To an Early Daffodil by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Throughout the echoing chambers of my brain Comments and analysis of The End by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
What charm is yours, you faded old-world tapestries, Comments and analysis of Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
What instinct forces man to journey on, Comments and analysis of The Poet by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
What torture lurks within a single thought Comments and analysis of A Fixed Idea by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
When I go away from you Comments and analysis of The Taxi by Amy Lowell 44 Comments
When you, my Dear, are away, away, Comments and analysis of A Little Song by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
Who shall declare the joy of the running! Comments and analysis of A Winter Ride by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
Wild little bird, who chose thee for a sign Comments and analysis of Suggested by the Cover of a Volume of Keats's Poems by Amy Lowell 10 Comments
Within the gold square of the proscenium arch,
You are beautiful and faded Comments and analysis of A Lady by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
You ask me for a sonnet. Ah, my Dear, Comments and analysis of In Answer to a Request by Amy Lowell 12 Comments
You came to me bearing bright roses,
You glow in my heart
You want to know what's the matter with me, do yer? Comments and analysis of Reaping by Amy Lowell 14 Comments


Books by Amy Lowell
Click here for books by Amy Lowell.
Lowell Info


Information
Copyright © 2000-2012 Gunnar Bengtsson. All Rights Reserved. Links | Bookstore