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April 21st, 2018 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 327,546 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


Page ViewsPoemComments
26039 Petals Comments and analysis of Petals by Amy Lowell 22 Comments
19375 Before the Altar Comments and analysis of Before the Altar by Amy Lowell 52 Comments
18180 Summer Comments and analysis of Summer by Amy Lowell 6 Comments
13388 Listening Comments and analysis of Listening by Amy Lowell 15 Comments
13064 Happiness Comments and analysis of Happiness by Amy Lowell 70 Comments
12452 Roads
12418 Leisure Comments and analysis of Leisure by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
11375 Behind a Wall Comments and analysis of Behind a Wall by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
11280 The Lamp of Life
11270 Song Comments and analysis of Song by Amy Lowell 32 Comments
11112 Azure and Gold Comments and analysis of Azure and Gold by Amy Lowell 7 Comments
10539 The Fruit Shop
10484 Fragment
9771 The Green Bowl Comments and analysis of The Green Bowl by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
9313 The Trout
9071 The Promise of the Morning Star
8986 The Matrix Comments and analysis of The Matrix by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
8878 Lead Soldiers Comments and analysis of Lead Soldiers by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
8831 Apology Comments and analysis of Apology by Amy Lowell 18 Comments
8824 Climbing Comments and analysis of Climbing by Amy Lowell 50 Comments
8815 A Japanese Wood-Carving Comments and analysis of A Japanese Wood-Carving by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
8807 The Dinner-Party Comments and analysis of The Dinner-Party by Amy Lowell 22 Comments
8451 Anticipation Comments and analysis of Anticipation by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
8374 The Painted Ceiling Comments and analysis of The Painted Ceiling by Amy Lowell 21 Comments
8280 Apples of Hesperides Comments and analysis of Apples of Hesperides by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
8278 Absence Comments and analysis of Absence by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
8201 A Tale of Starvation Comments and analysis of A Tale of Starvation by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
8142 The Giver of Stars
8106 In Darkness Comments and analysis of In Darkness by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
7992 A Gift Comments and analysis of A Gift by Amy Lowell 14 Comments
7894 An Aquarium
7862 The Paper Windmill
7781 Loon Point
7663 In a Castle Comments and analysis of In a Castle by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
7587 Aubade
7518 In Answer to a Request Comments and analysis of In Answer to a Request by Amy Lowell 218 Comments
7485 From One Who Stays
7472 The Allies Comments and analysis of The Allies by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
7394 Before Dawn Comments and analysis of Before Dawn by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
7305 Vintage Comments and analysis of Vintage by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
7260 March Evening
6889 The Forsaken
6873 A Blockhead
6857 The Temple Comments and analysis of The Temple by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
6851 Suggested by the Cover of a Volume of Keats's Poems Comments and analysis of Suggested by the Cover of a Volume of Keats's Poems by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
6750 The Pike Comments and analysis of The Pike by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
6732 The Shadow Comments and analysis of The Shadow by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
6659 A Roxbury Garden Comments and analysis of A Roxbury Garden by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
6648 1777
6641 Aftermath
6630 The Fruit Garden Path
6630 Reaping Comments and analysis of Reaping by Amy Lowell 17 Comments
6482 To Elizabeth Ward Perkins
6375 The Blue Scarf
6322 The Pleiades
6229 Fool's Money Bags Comments and analysis of Fool's Money Bags by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
6218 Obligation
6082 Diya  {original title is Greek, Delta-iota-psi-alpha}
6072 The Painter on Silk Comments and analysis of The Painter on Silk by Amy Lowell 7 Comments
6023 The Great Adventure of Max Breuck Comments and analysis of The Great Adventure of Max Breuck by Amy Lowell 14 Comments
5965 Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window Comments and analysis of Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
5794 An Opera House
5595 Pickthorn Manor Comments and analysis of Pickthorn Manor by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
5562 A Ballad of Footmen
5500 Epitaph in a Church-Yard in Charleston, South Carolina
5486 The Grocery Comments and analysis of The Grocery by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
5411 Afternoon Rain in State Street
5180 A Petition
5175 Sancta Maria, Succurre Miseris Comments and analysis of Sancta Maria, Succurre Miseris by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
5057 Fringed Gentians
5051 The Exeter Road Comments and analysis of The Exeter Road by Amy Lowell 8 Comments
4999 Monadnock in Early Spring
4991 Frankincense and Myrrh
4804 Teatro Bambino.  Dublin, N. H.
4658 White and Green
4541 Off the Turnpike Comments and analysis of Off the Turnpike by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
2950 To an Early Daffodil Comments and analysis of To an Early Daffodil by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
2906 After Hearing a Waltz by Bartok Comments and analysis of After Hearing a Waltz by Bartok by Amy Lowell 454 Comments
2561 A Winter Ride Comments and analysis of A Winter Ride by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
2507 A Little Song Comments and analysis of A Little Song by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
2506 Sword Blades and Poppy Seed Comments and analysis of Sword Blades and Poppy Seed by Amy Lowell 27 Comments
2324 A Tulip Garden Comments and analysis of A Tulip Garden by Amy Lowell 45 Comments
2237 Red Slippers Comments and analysis of Red Slippers by Amy Lowell 41 Comments
2128 A London Thoroughfare.  2 A.M. Comments and analysis of A London Thoroughfare.  2 A.M. by Amy Lowell 14 Comments
2124 Mirage
2122 Nightmare: A Tale for an Autumn Evening Comments and analysis of Nightmare:  A Tale for an Autumn Evening by Amy Lowell 14 Comments
2043 Patterns Comments and analysis of Patterns by Amy Lowell 93 Comments
1981 The Fool Errant Comments and analysis of The Fool Errant by Amy Lowell 1 Comment
1966 The Basket Comments and analysis of The Basket by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
1963 Number 3 on the Docket Comments and analysis of Number 3 on the Docket by Amy Lowell 5 Comments
1857 Sea Shell Comments and analysis of Sea Shell by Amy Lowell 29 Comments
1715 The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde Comments and analysis of The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
1687 Francis II, King of Naples
1645 A Lady Comments and analysis of A Lady by Amy Lowell 10 Comments
1533 The Cyclists
1516 Miscast II
1431 The Road to Avignon Comments and analysis of The Road to Avignon by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
1411 Patience Comments and analysis of Patience by Amy Lowell 76 Comments
1364 The Crescent Moon Comments and analysis of The Crescent Moon by Amy Lowell 29 Comments
1343 Spring Day Comments and analysis of Spring Day by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
1324 The Way Comments and analysis of The Way by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
1287 Clear, with Light, Variable Winds
1248 Venetian Glass
1166 Hero-Worship Comments and analysis of Hero-Worship by Amy Lowell 18 Comments
1150 The Boston Athenaeum Comments and analysis of The Boston Athenaeum by Amy Lowell 194 Comments
1040 Fragment
997 The End Comments and analysis of The End by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
960 To John Keats Comments and analysis of To John Keats by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
938 The Last Quarter of the Moon
918 The Poet Comments and analysis of The Poet by Amy Lowell 18 Comments
826 The Coal Picker Comments and analysis of The Coal Picker by Amy Lowell 206 Comments
814 Malmaison Comments and analysis of Malmaison by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
789 Miscast I
773 In a Garden Comments and analysis of In a Garden by Amy Lowell 4 Comments
672 The Starling
668 The Captured Goddess Comments and analysis of The Captured Goddess by Amy Lowell 297 Comments
663 The Bombardment
645 At Night Comments and analysis of At Night by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
605 "To-morrow to Fresh Woods and Pastures New" Comments and analysis of 2 Comments
576 Music Comments and analysis of Music by Amy Lowell 2 Comments
572 Irony Comments and analysis of Irony by Amy Lowell 12 Comments
524 Stravinsky's Three Pieces Comments and analysis of Stravinsky's Three Pieces  by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
518 The Bungler
504 Hora Stellatrix
488 On Carpaccio's Picture:  The Dream of St. Ursula
463 Convalescence
461 The Red Lacquer Music-Stand
441 To a Friend Comments and analysis of To a Friend by Amy Lowell 3 Comments
429 Late September
426 Crowned
425 J--K. Huysmans
420 A Coloured Print by Shokei
420 The Tree of Scarlet Berries Comments and analysis of The Tree of Scarlet Berries by Amy Lowell 13 Comments
391 Stupidity
376 A Fairy Tale
370 Storm-Racked
362 The Cross-Roads Comments and analysis of The Cross-Roads by Amy Lowell 20 Comments
360 Crepuscule du Matin
358 Epitaph of a Young Poet Who Died Before Having Achieved Success
354 The Taxi Comments and analysis of The Taxi by Amy Lowell 59 Comments
320 Two Travellers in the Place Vendome
283 Astigmatism Comments and analysis of Astigmatism by Amy Lowell 16 Comments
255 The Foreigner Comments and analysis of The Foreigner by Amy Lowell 22 Comments
228 Dreams Comments and analysis of Dreams by Amy Lowell 11 Comments
220 Wind Comments and analysis of Wind by Amy Lowell 56 Comments
219 The Hammers
203 The Cremona Violin
198 Thompson's Lunch Room -- Grand Central Station
184 New York at Night
168 The Little Garden
126 The Precinct.  Rochester Comments and analysis of The Precinct.  Rochester by Amy Lowell 9 Comments
56 A Fixed Idea Comments and analysis of A Fixed Idea by Amy Lowell 7 Comments


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