Three Moments in Paris Analysis

Mina Loy

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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Several characteristics associated with free verse give “Three Moments in Paris” a modern look and sound: lack of exact rhyme and end rhyme; lack of consistent line length and meter; lack of punctuation; extra spacing within the line; sentence fragments; and words that are completely capitalized. Assonance, alliteration, and slant rhymes replace exact rhyme, and at times these are found, along with the use of anaphora, at the beginning rather than at the end of the line. Loy’s line lengths vary from one word to seventeen. The spacing within the lines, which at times creates the pause normally provided by punctuation, and the use of sentence fragments contribute to the poems’ collage effect. Urban settings, characteristic of this sequence and of most of Loy’s poems, provide another modernizing touch. Loy renders her scenes with precise description and multisyllabic diction that at times draws on a scientific or intellectual vocabulary.

The paradox in the opening lines of “One O’Clock at Night”—“Though you had never possessed me/ I had belonged to you since the beginning of time”—suggests the irony and satire to come. Although the speaker claims she understands nothing about her lover’s Futurist argument, the poem is clearly influenced, in both form and content, by Futurism’s precepts, most of which were set down by Loy’s one-time lover, Filippo Marinetti. Thus, the poem’s literal depiction of a woman intimidated by male...

(The entire section is 498 words.)