About the details of her life, Louise Marie Bogan maintained a deliberate and consistent reticence. However, she also claimed that she had written a searching account of her life; it was all in her poetry, she said, with only the vulgar particulars omitted. The information available about her life substantiates her claim.
The earliest theme to emerge in Bogan’s life is the struggle for order amidst chaos and violence. She was born in Livermore Falls, Maine, on August 11, 1897, the second child and only daughter of Mary Helen Shields and Daniel J. Bogan. During the next twelve years, the family lived variously in Milton and Manchester, New Hampshire, and in Ballardvale, Massachusetts, before settling, in 1910, in Boston. Life was characterized by extremes of physical and psychological violence between the parents, and between mother and children. Although Bogan’s father is almost totally absent from her recollections, her mother, a woman of elegance, taste, and ferocious temper, imposed an unpredictable and almost overwhelming presence on the young girl’s life. There are startling gaps in memory: an unexplained year in a convent boarding school, two days of blindness at the age of eight. The convent year, the boardinghouse in Ballardvale, and an art teacher in Boston, however, represented relief from the constant struggle for sanity and order in the chaotic Bogan household. As a child, Louise relished the soothing atmosphere of order, cleanliness, and competence found in the boardinghouse, and later the enchantment of Miss Cooper’s studio with its precious trinkets and carefully ordered tools. During her teens, Bogan’s five years at Boston’s Girls’ Latin School enlarged her experience of both discipline and disorder; it was here that she received the thorough classical education she treasured so, and here that she encountered firsthand the vigorous New England Protestant bigotry against the Irish. To her classmates, Bogan was a “Mick,” and she kept this...
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