Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Incredible Transformation of Amy Lowell

First, a qualifier: I'm writing from a limited knowledge of Lowell.

Lowell, Amy. A Dome of Many Colored Glass. Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

I made this purchase to examine Amy Lowell’s version of Imagism. I wanted to know why she was continually blasted for her interference in the development of this movement (Pound's "Amyism"), and I anticipated reading someone who wasn't included in the original Imagist anthologies.

To my chagrin, I discovered that I'd purchased her first book, and it bears no evidence of even an Imagist consciousness, not an inkling. In fact, it is so obviously written in a style that is counter to that mode that it acts as a full example of what Imagism discourages.

For example, her verses are rhymed. The diction is often prosaic, high formal and abstract. The lines are long, the images sentimental and verbose. While the Imagists were espousing natural surroundings and a depersonalized attachment to topic, Lowell was praising concrete spires, the city, and waving goodbye to natural verdancy, to the temporal (The Wait); she was idolizing the intellect, books, the connection to an idealized, selective past with ominous references to “race.”(The Boston Athenaeum)

Apparently, having gotten this first effort out, Lowell then made an amazing transformation. Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (1914), introduced “polyphonic prose” and gained her attention as an innovator. In another two years, she published Men, Women and Ghosts and at last found a place among the Imagists.

But what exactly took her from point A (anti-Imagist) to point B (Imagist innovator)?

Here's where I stop - for now. Because to reach an answer means reading her later collections. And I am so adamentally anti-Amy Lowell the thought of that effort is unbearable.

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