Nov 13, 2011


"Autumn" remains my favorite of the dozen or so Amy Lowell poems I've read in the last few days, but here is another with merit: 

The Garden by Moonlight by Amy Lowell : The Poetry Foundation
I’ve also found some information about Amy Lowell. Most of it is at this website, along with a selection of her poems, including “Autumn,” which we discussed a little here November 9.

Isle of Lesbos: Poetry of Anna Seward

For those who don't read the article, I must mention two points of information I came across. First, Amy Lowell was such an admirer of Keats that she wrote a long, unfinished biography of him. So my placing the two writers side by side last post, based only their autumn poems, was a stroke of luck.

Secondly, Amy Lowell suffered from a glandular problem that caused her to grow more and more overweight as she aged (she died at 51). When she tried to learn more about Imagism from Ezra Pound, generally considered brilliant as a critic and insane as a human, he thought she was trying to preempt his exalted status as Lord of Imagism and attacked her verbally, including the epithet “hippo-poetess.”

For those who like to read biographical backgrounds into poems, Lowell’s lesbianism might be, or seem, a clarification of the puzzling  “They” and “You,” who have “taken . . . / All I once possessed” in the closing of “Autumn.”  As always, however, I resist reading biography into literature any more than is absolutely necessary, and I don’t think we are required to see this poem’s “They” as friends or relatives who betrayed her because of her sexual orientation (Of course, I’m betting such things did happen; they happen still, a hundred years later).

So the identity of the person(s) giving her the dahlia is relatively, or completely, unimportant. Nor do I think “They” or “You” must be an offending lover.  “You” could be, but it's the season of autumn that the poem is trying to see as the offender, a bright, bold flower whose vitality betrays, wounds and offends the “barren” speaker.  
The poem centers instead on the emotional effects of the flower in its unlikely, startling embodiment of the colorful fall season; the folks who brought it are secondary.  Granted, the undisclosed identity and motives of those people might amount to a tease, an elephant in the room; but if so, I suggest it's a problem in the design, completeness, and artistry of the poem, rather than a biographical puzzle that readers should spend time trying to solve.

Isle of Lesbos: Poetry of Anna Seward

The Garden by Moonlight by Amy Lowell : The Poetry Foundation


Pasadena Adjacent said...

This line from Ann Seward's poem makes me especially sad

"Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies?
They knew my mother,
But who belonging to me will they know
When I am gone."

I have a plant that belonged to my grandmother. There will be no more of us.

(I have a new post up)

Banjo52 said...

PA, thank you! I have no plant, but there are "my" trees full of birds. Those lines hit me too. I'll be there soon for a visit. By the way, I DID look at that link and didn't think I could make head ner tail of it either. Esp, starting with "virile".

Banjo52 said...

P.S. For me, a lot of those lines' power comes from the slightly unusual but completely accessible wording in "who belonging to me will they know."

Birdman said...

Enjoyed the Seward stories.

Anonymous said...

I ran into Amy today while doing some research at Huntington. She contacted the library for some Keats' info back in the 20's while working on the bio.

Not much, I know. Just found it a coincidence, as the name Amy Lowell wouldn't have previously caught my attention.

Banjo52 said...

Good -- Amy (and Keats?) are in the air.

Lovers' Lane