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About this poet

On February 9,  1874, Amy Lowell was born at Sevenels, a ten-acre family estate in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her family was Episcopalian, of old New England stock, and at the top of Boston society. Lowell was the youngest of five children. Her elder brother Abbott Lawrence, a freshman at Harvard at the time of her birth, went on to become president of Harvard College. As a young girl she was first tutored at home, then attended private schools in Boston, during which time she made several trips to Europe with her family. At seventeen she secluded herself in the 7,000-book library at Sevenels to study literature. Lowell was encouraged to write from an early age.

In 1887 she, with her mother and sister, wrote Dream Drops or Stories From Fairy Land by a Dreamer, printed privately by the Boston firm Cupples and Hurd. Her poem "Fixed Idea" was published in 1910 by the Atlantic Monthly, after which Lowell published individual poems in various journals. In October of 1912 Houghton Mifflin published her first collection, A Dome of Many Colored Glass.

Lowell, a vivacious and outspoken businesswoman, tended to excite controversy. She was deeply interested in and influenced by the Imagist movement, led by Ezra Pound. The primary Imagists were Pound, Ford Madox Ford, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and Richard Aldington. This Anglo-American movement believed, in Lowell's words, that "concentration is of the very essence of poetry" and strove to "produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite." Lowell campaigned for the success of Imagist poetry in America and embraced its principles in her own work. She acted as a publicity agent for the movement, editing and contributing to an anthology of Imagist poets in 1915.

Her enthusiastic involvement and influence contributed to Pound's separation from the movement. As Lowell continued to explore the Imagist style she pioneered the use of "polyphonic prose" in English, mixing formal verse and free forms. Later she was drawn to and influenced by Chinese and Japanese poetry. This interest led her to collaborate with translator Florence Ayscough on Fir-Flower Tablets in 1921. Lowell had a lifelong love for the poet Keats, whose letters she collected and influences can be seen in her poems. She believed him to be the forbearer of Imagism. Her biography of Keats was published in 1925, the same year she won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection What's A Clock (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925). 

A dedicated poet, publicity agent, collector, critic, and lecturer, Lowell died on May 12, 1925 at Sevenels.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (Rutgers University Press, 2002)
What's A Clock (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925)
Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (The Macmillan Company, 1914)

A Dome of Many Colored Glass (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912) 

 

The Congressional Library [excerpt]

Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925
Where else in all America are we so symbolized
As in this hall?
White columns polished like glass,
A dome and a dome,
A balcony and a balcony,
Stairs and the balustrades to them,
Yellow marble and red slabs of it,
All mounting, spearing, flying into color.
Color round the dome and up to it,
Color curving, kite-flying, to the second dome,
Light, dropping, pitching down upon the color,
Arrow-falling upon the glass-bright pillars,
Mingled colors spinning into a shape of white pillars,
Fusing, cooling, into balanced shafts of shrill and interthronging light.
This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-colored light.

An excerpt from "The Congressional Library" from What's O'Clock. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts and G. D'Andelot Belin, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

An excerpt from "The Congressional Library" from What's O'Clock. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts and G. D'Andelot Belin, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

Born in 1874, Amy Lowell was deeply interested in and influenced by the Imagist movement and she received the Pulitzer Prize for her collection What's A Clock

by this poet

poem
I

Our meeting was like the upward swish of a rocket	
In the blue night.	
I do not know when it burst;	
But now I stand gaping,	
In a glory of falling stars.	        
 
II

Hola! Hola! shouts the crowd, as the catherine-wheels sputter and turn.	
Hola! They cheer the flower-pots and set pieces.	
And
poem
O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.
poem
You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.