Louise Bogan Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

There are two collections of the criticism of Louise Bogan (boh-GAN), most of which consists of articles and reviews from her many years with The New Yorker: The posthumously published A Poet’s Alphabet: Reflections on the Literary Art and Vocation (1970), edited by Robert Phelps and Ruth Limmer, contains all the pieces from Selected Criticism: Prose, Poetry (1955) plus other writings previously uncollected. Bogan’s brief history of modern American poetry, Achievement in American Poetry, appeared in 1951. Her translations include The Glass Bees by Ernst Jünger (1960, with Elizabeth Mayer), and three works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Elective Affinities (1963), Novella (1971), and The Sorrows of Young Werther (1971); she also edited a translation of The Journal of Jules Renard (1964). Ruth Limmer, Bogan’s friend and literary executor, brought out two posthumous collections of personal writings: What the Woman Lived: Selected Letters of Louise Bogan 1920-1970 (1973) and Journey Around My Room: The Autobiography of Louise Bogan (1980), a chronological selection from diaries, letters, and other published and unpublished papers.

Louise Bogan Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Louise Bogan devoted her life to poetry in writing, criticism, reviews, lectures, and consulting, and she was recognized with “all the honors that are an honor” for a poet in the United States. She received three Guggenheim Fellowships (1922, 1933, and 1937), the John Reed Memorial Prize from Poetry magazine (1930), the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine (1937), the Harriet Monroe Award from the University of Chicago (1948), a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1951), the Bollingen Prize (1955), the Academy of American Poets Fellowship (1959), and the Senior Creative Arts Award from Brandeis University (1962). She served as the consultant in poetry (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress in 1945-1946. Western College for Women and Colby College bestowed honorary degrees. She was elected a fellow in American Letters of the Library of Congress and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1952. She served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1961 to 1970.

These honors came in recognition of a substantial body of prose as well as poetry. From 1931 until 1968, Bogan regularly reviewed poetry for The New Yorker, contributing notes and reviews on twenty to forty books of poetry every year. Her published criticism helped shape the taste of generations of readers. Less well known but also influential was Bogan’s second career as teacher, lecturer, and poet-in-residence. In 1944, she delivered the Hopwood Lecture at the University of Michigan, and for the next twenty-five years she lectured and taught at universities from Connecticut to Arizona and Washington State to Arkansas.

Bogan never cultivated popularity, and, despite the many academic and official honors, popular acclaim for her work has been scant. She received neither the Pulitzer Prize nor the National Book Award. More puzzling has been the neglect by the academic establishment; few scholars have undertaken the thorough examination of her work that has been accorded such contemporaries as Theodore Roethke and Marianne Moore. In the late 1970’s, however, stimulated by feminist criticism and an awakening interest in women authors, literary scholars began more extensive studies of Bogan’s works.

Louise Bogan Bibliography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bowles, Gloria. Louise Bogan’s Aesthetic of Limitation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Bowles uses a feminist perspective to examine Bogan and her work and asserts that the poet’s“limitation” results from her notion of what she could and could not do within the male literary tradition. The author identifies Bogan as a modernist and explores a variety of influences, including William Butler Yeats and the Symbolists, on Bogan’s poetry.

Collins, Martha, ed. Critical Essays on Louise Bogan. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984. The first collection of scholarly essays on Bogan ever published. Topics discussed are varied and range from the tendencies to misunderstand Bogan’s work to feminist responses to her poetry. Collins has written an extensive and enlightening introduction.

Dodd, Elizabeth Caroline. The Veiled Mirror and the Woman Poet: H. D., Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992. Dodd identifies a strain in women’s poetry she calls “personal classicism”: poetry grounded in the writer’s private experience yet characterized by formal and tonal restraint. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Frank, Elizabeth. Louise Bogan: A Portrait. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. Although this book is intended for the general reader, it...

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