Saturday, 16 April 2016

Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925) - American poet and writer

Amy Lowell was born on 9th February 1874 in Brookline, Massachusetts into a wealthy Boston family at their ten acre estate ‘Sevenels’.  She was the youngest of five children.   Amy was tutored at home before attending private schools in Boston.  Her parents were of the opinion that it was not appropriate for a young lady to attend university but Amy did travel extensively and she also collected and read books.   Amy had access to her father’s library of over 7,000 books at ‘Sevenels’.

Inspired by the Italian actress Eleonora Duse who she saw while travelling in Europe, Amy began to study and write poetry in 1902.   She travelled to England where she spent some time during the First World War and where she met Ezra Pound, the Imagist poet whose work she admired.  “Free verse” was Amy’s preferred style and she frequently dispensed with line breaks in a system she called “polyphonic prose”.

While in London, Amy attended a poetry reading given by the poet Rupert Brooke* at the Poetry Bookshop, which opened in 1913 and was run by Harold Munro in Devonshire Road off Holborn.   Rupert’s voice was apparently rather soft and Amy, who was at the back, called out “Speak up!”

Some of Amy’s work was published in “Atlantic Monthly” and she also had volumes of her poetry published.  She was working on a biography of the poet John Keats when she died on 12th May 1926.   Amy was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Lead Soldiers

Tommy’s soldiers march to battle,

Trumpets flare and snare drums rattle.

How the horses sweat and prance!

Cannon drawn up in a line

Glitter in the dizzy shine

Of the morning sunlight.  Flags

Ripple colours in great jags.

Red blows out, then blue, then green,

Then all three – a wearing sheen

Of prismed patriotism.  March

Tommy’s soldiers, stiff and starch,

Boldly stepping to a rattle

Of the drums, they go to battle.

From Amy Lowell’s WW1 collection “Men, Women and Ghosts”, published by The Macmillan Company, New York, 1916

*British WW1 soldier poet Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Division in WW1 and died on the way to Gallipoli in April 1915 - see