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.