Amy Lowell on the cover of Time magazine, March 2, 1925. This issue included a favorable review of Amy Lowell's biography of John Keats
Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was a modern American poet, literary critic and biographer. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry posthumously in 1926. Educated privately, she was born and died in Brookline, Massachussetts. During her lifetime, her work was largely overshadowed and overlooked by her more famous relatives, her grand-uncle James Russell Lowell and her nephew Robert Lowell. Although she authored hundreds of poems, only a few have appeared in contemporary poetry compendiums.
In England in 1913, she associated with Ezra Pound and others of the English imagist poets, who objected to the over-flowerly language of the romantic poets. Amy Lowell's three-volume anthology, Some Imagist Poets (1915-17), made the imagist movement famous and annoyed Pound, who considered her to have hi-jacked a movement which was rightly his to claim. Lowell's poetry is considered to be an example of the imagist movement because it favors precision of imagery, clear language, directness of presentation and free verse. A characteristic feature of the form is its attempt to isolate a single image to reveal its essence.
Amy Lowell books
Most of Amy Lowell's original books are available today at Project Gutenberg. Listed below are the books she published during her lifetime.
- 1887: Her first book, Dream Drops, contained fairy tales. It was published privately.
- 1912: Her first volume of poetry, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass
- 1914: Poetry in Sword Blades and Poppy Seed began to include experiments with "unrhymed cadence" and "polyphonic prose"
- 1916: Men, Women and Ghosts
- 1918: Can Grande's Castle
- 1919: Pictures of the Floating World shows Chinese and Japanese influence
- 1921: Legends
- 1921: Fir-Flower Tablets
Literary criticism, biography and other poets:
- 1915/1916/1917: Some Imagist Poets, a three-volume anthology which made the imagist movement famous
- 1915: Six French Poets: Studies in Contemporary Literature
- 1917: Tendencies in Modern American Poetry
- 1925: John Keats (acclaimed biography)
Patterns: A poem
Patterns, by Amy Lowell was originally published in her 1916 book Men, Women and Ghosts. It is valued for its anti-war sentiment and is one of her works that has been frequently reprinted in anthologies:
I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whale-bone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.
And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.
I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon--
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.
Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
“Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday sen'night.”
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
“Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
“No,” I told him.
“See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer.”
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.
In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern.
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
Now he is dead.
In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?