Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Complete Poetical Works collects eleven of Amy Lowell’s books published between 1912 and 1927 and six uncollected poems, thus superseding an earlier, posthumous anthology edited by John Livingston Lowes, Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (1928). The Complete Poetical Works is presented in chronological publication order. Lowell’s not-inconsiderable prose texts are omitted, such as the post-World War I study Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1921), in which Lowell attempted to articulate a literary movement, and the exhaustive two-volume work John Keats (1925). Apart from her own contemporaneously successful writings, Lowell is historically notable for her forcefully entrepreneurial, “unfeminine” promotions of modernist poetry and poets, especially the minor Imagist movement.

As Louis Untermeyer suggests in his introduction, the styles of Lowell’s poems range from the conventional lyrics and sonnets of A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass (1912) to the narrative “stories” of Men, Women, and Ghosts (1916), from the translations in her collaboration with Florence Ayscough, Fir-Flower Tablets (1921), to love lyrics for Ada Dwyer Russell in Pictures of the Floating World (1919). Lowell strove to perfect Imagist techniques, painting vivid scenes with words, but her narratives were sometimes better received. She had a deserved reputation as a ranconteuse and public speaker.

Lowell’s earliest works bespeak her apprenticeship in poetic craft. Her first poem, “Eleanora Duse,” was written in 1902; some sonnets were published in 1910, followed shortly by her first book in 1912. Lowell met Russell that year, and this...

(The entire section is 710 words.)