Loy, Mina (Poetry Criticism)
Mina Loy 1882–1966
(Born Mina Gertrude Lowy) English poet and artist. See also Mina Loy Literary Criticism.
Loy is closely associated with the modernist movement in American and English poetry in the early twentieth century. She is noted for her innovative experimentation with free verse and her use of such themes as sexuality and female experience. Her work is often autobiographical and reflects her association with the Italian Futurist movement, French metaphysics, and with other avant-garde writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Marianne Moore.
Loy was born into a conventional English Victorian family of Hungarian descent. She started writing poetry and painting early, and as a young woman, she travelled to Germany and Paris to study art. In 1903 she married the artist Hugh Oscar William Haweis (known as Stephen) in Paris. She had some early artistic successes at the Salon D'Automne, after which Haweis moved the family to Florence. She had three children with Haweis, who abandoned her in 1913. After becoming enamored of the Futurist movement in Italy, she began writing verse extolling the Futurist philosophy. She eventually became disillusioned with the fascist and misogynist tendencies of the movement and abandoned Europe for New York. After being published in avant-garde journals such as Others, the Dial, and Camera Work, Loy's poetry began to garner critical attention. In 1918 she married Dadaist Arthur Cravan, who disappeared and was presumably found dead in the Mexican desert in 1919. She published her first collection of poetry, Lunar Baedecker in 1923. That same year she settled in Paris with her children and worked as a lampshade designer and artist's agent to support her family. She returned to New York in 1936 and continued to write poetry sporadically. Loy died in Aspen, Colorado, in 1966.
Loy's importance as a poet is based largely on her early work, which reflected her concerns with the role of women in a modern world. Her Love Songs (1981), "Parturition," "Three Moments in Paris," and "Italian Pictures" are unsentimental explorations of a woman's experience of childbirth, love, sex and its aftermath which reflect the modern artist's use of collage and other stylistic techniques. Loy's political philosophy is manifest in her "Aphorisms on Futurism," a prose poem that celebrated
the Futurist movement and "Feminist Manifesto," a call for economic and social reform in the lives of women.
Loy's early work was favorably received by the influen tial modernist poets Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, both of whom admired her innovative and autobiographical verse. Yet the modernist aspects of Loy's poetry alienated most commentators, in particular the unconventional structure and the overlapping characters and images in her work. Her frank treatment of sexual themes shocked mainstream audiences and prevented her poetry from being published in major journals of the period. Today she is the focus of critics who examine her work within the context of feminist and modernist poetry.
* Songs to Joannes, Others 1917
Lunar Baedecker 1923
At the Door of the House 1980
Virgins Plus Curtains 1981
The Last Lunar Baedeker 1982
*Republished as Love Songs, 1981.
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SOURCE: "The Poetry of Mina Loy," in The Southern Review, Vol. 3, Summer, 1967, pp. 597-607.
[In the following essay, Fields provides a thematic and stylistic analysis of Loy's poetry.]
Mina Loy was a contemporary of Williams and Pound, and although she was born in England, her poems are an important part of the American free verse movement. She published her first poems in Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work, and later appeared in Little Review, Others, The Dial, and other prominent American magazines. Like the work of most first-rate writers, her poems were controversial, but she was held in high regard by her contemporaries. In 1921, Pound writes to Marianne Moore: "Also, entre nooz: is there anyone in America except you, Bill and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?" Lunar Baedecker [sic], containing 31 poems, was published in 1923, and Jonathan Williams, in 1958, published Lunar Baedeker and Time-tables, unfortunately, on his small and little-known press. This book went out of print almost immediately, and today Mina Loy's poems are virtually unobtainable. One of the best poets of the period, she is now scarcely read, and her name appears only in the midst of semischolarly lists compiled by men more interested in history than in distinguished poets.
Everyone knows that the tens and twenties were a difficult period for writers, and the...
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SOURCE: "Becoming Mina Loy," in Women's Studies, Vol. 7, Nos. 1-2, 1980, pp. 136-50.
[In the following essay, Burke analyzes several of Loy's poems from the years 1914 and 1915 in order to show the poet "examining the traditional spaces in which women live their lives, defining her own place within the 'spatiality' of poetry, and shaping the contours of a new psychic terrain."]
"images for the relief of the body and the reconstruction of the mind."
Mina Loy was an early explorer of that uncharted territory, the "new psychic geography" of women's poetry. Writing just before World War One, she felt the urgency of learning new ways to speak as a woman. Her poems are born of the desire to enter into a terrain where physicality embodies the spirit, where the body is animated by the mind. Appearing at the height of the first Women's Movement, her earliest work was informed by her sympathetic awareness of other women's efforts to free themselves from the constraints of tradition. Yet though her poetry appeals to contemporary readers, it is all but unavailable to us today: Lunar Baedeker has long been out of print, and only a handful of poems have appeared in recent anthologies. In this essay, part of a longer project that will result in a critical biography of Mina Loy, I shall discuss a group of poems...
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SOURCE: "Rediscovering Our Sources: The Poetry of Mina Loy," in Boundary 2, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Spring, 1980, pp. 167-88.
[In the following essay, Kouidis discusses Loy's involvement with feminism, futurism, French metaphysics, and the free verse movement through a reading of several of her major works.]
Although British by birth, Mina Loy (1882-1966) has been considered an American modernist poet since her arrival in New York in 1916. One of the European expatriates from World War I, she shared the glamour and notoriety accompanying this group's pursuit of artistic and personal freedom, and her exceptional beauty, cerebral disposition, and cosmopolitan background distinguished her among the artists surrounding avant garde impresarios Alfred Stieglitz, Walter Conrad Arensberg, and Alfred Kreymborg. This milieu provided a sympathetic audience for her daringly innovative poetry, and to its writers' experiments in word, line, and image she contributed her firsthand knowledge of European modernism. The American little magazines were her publishers. Even before she arrived in the States her poems (and experimental plays) had appeared in Camera Work, The Trend, The International, Rogue, and Others; and in the late 1910s she moved with the experimentalists to The Little Review and The Dial.
Mina Loy's seminal place in the American poetry revolution is suggested by the...
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SOURCE: "The New Poetry and the New Woman: Mina Loy," in Coming to Light: American Women Poets in the Twentieth Century, edited by Diane Wood Middlebrook and Marilyn Yalom, The University of Michigan Press, 1985, pp. 37-57.
[In the following excerpt, Burke places Loy's poetry, in particular her "Three Moments in Paris" and Love Songs, within the American feminist movement.]
Soon after her arrival in New York for the first time (1916), Mina Loy was contacted by a newspaper reporter who wanted to interview a representative "new woman." The reporter began her article by asking, "Who is … this 'modern woman' that people are always talking about," then reflected, "Some people think that women are the cause of modernism, whatever that is." Loy's name had been suggested because of her radically modern poetry: already published in such avant-garde magazines as Camera Work, Rogue, and The Trend, she was known as the author of the most widely quoted poems in Others, A Magazine of the New Verse, the scandalous new rival to Harriet Monroe's Poetry. For the average reader, Loy's writing was of a piece with the baffling artistic projects of Alfred Steiglitz, Gertrude Stein, and the Italian Futurists, and her subject matter with the public soul-searching and lawbreaking of the new woman. The reporter remembered her poems as "the kind that people kept around for months and dug out of...
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SOURCE: "From Futurism to Feminism: The Poetry of Mina Loy," in Gender, Culture, and the Arts: Women, the Arts, and Society, edited by Ronald Dotterer and Susan Bowers, Associated University Presses, 1993, pp. 115-27.
[In the following essay, Ress determines the primary influences on Loy's poetry and discusses how she appropriated collage and other Futurist literary techniques to give her own work "violence and energy. " ]
In a 1921 letter Ezra Pound, that entrepreneur of modernism, asked Marianne Moore, "P.S. Entre nooz, is there anyone in America besides you, Bill [W. C. Williams], and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?" [The Last Lunar Baedeker, edited by Roger L. Conover, 1982]. Both he and Eliot considered Loy "the most radical of the radical set whose work began appearing" in avant-garde literary magazines of the period. In 1926 Yvor Winters, writing in The Dial, asked, "Who will poets of my generation look back to as the ablest master of the Experimental Generation?" His answer: William Carlos Williams and Mina Loy. Winters repeated this assessment in a 1930 article, and again in 1967. Writing to Loy in 1931, Kay Boyle characterized her work as "glorious, sharp, miraculous," and went on to "wonder if you know how terribly much your writing matters to us." In 1944 Kenneth Rexroth, comparing Loy's work with that of Marianne Moore, found "her material …...
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Arnold, Elizabeth. "Mina Loy and the Futurists." Sagetrieb 8, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring-Fall 1989): 83-117.
Determines the extent to which Loy both utilizes and rejects Futurist approaches to language.
Burke, Carolyn. "Mina Loy's 'Love Songs' and the Limits of Imagism." San Jose Studies XIII, No. 3 (Fall 1987): 37-46.
Compares Loy's Futurist-inspired Love Songs with the Imagist and Vorticist techniques of Ezra Pound.
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. '"Seismic Orgasm': Sexual Intercourse, Gender Narratives, and Lyric Ideology in Mina Loy." In Studies in Historical Change, edited by Ralph Cohen, pp. 264-91. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992.
Analyzes aspects of Loy's Love Songs, contending that she "produced a work whose depiction of sexuality, if not unique, is a provocation to the study of the social codes of the lyric and some historical meanings of the representation of sex."
Kenner, Hugh. "To Be the Brancusi of Poetry." The New York Times Book Review (16 May 1982): 7, 30.
Favorable review of The Last Lunar Baedeker.
Kouidis, Virginia. Mina Loy: American Modernist Poet....
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