The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Three Moments in Paris” is a three-poem sequence in free verse, each poem numbered and titled. “One O’Clock at Night” contains twenty-nine lines, and both “Café du Néant” and “Magasins du Louvre” contain thirty-six. Stanza lengths vary in all three poems. The point of view also varies; Loy uses a first-person voice in the first and third poems, and a third-person voice in the second poem. The shift in voice can best be understood in the light of the title’s significance and of developments in art at the beginning of the twentieth century. Cubist painting rendered its subjects as collages of geometric shapes; Futurist painters added dynamic juxtapositions and urban imagery to this approach. Like Gertrude Stein, Loy applied these visual concepts to her writing. In “Three Moments in Paris,” she creates a verbal collage that satirically examines modern male-female relationships in the wake of increasing social autonomy for women.

The female speaker in “One O’Clock at Night” is leaning against her lover in the chair they are sharing, and she is falling asleep as he argues about Futurist aesthetics with his brother. She awakens when her lover clears his throat and is able to catch “the thread of the argument.” The speaker then claims that its issues—“dynamic composition” and “plastic velocity”—mean little to her, and her waking signals her recognition of the difference between men and women. The focus of the poem...

(The entire section is 546 words.)