Houghton MS Lowell 62 (3) - Marceau

Amy Lowell (1874-1925). Photo by Marceau, Boston, MA, before 1924. Source: MS Lowell 62 (3), Houghton Library, Harvard University. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Amy Lawrence Lowell
Born February 9, 1874(1874-Template:MONTHNUMBER-09)
Brookline, Massachusetts
Died May 12, 1925(1925-Template:MONTHNUMBER-12) (aged 51)
Occupation Poet
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Amy Lawrence Lowell (February 9, 1874 - May 12, 1925) was an American poet of the imagist school, who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize.

Life Edit

Private lifeEdit

Lowell was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, into Brookline's prominent Lowell family, sister to astronomer Percival Lowell and Harvard University president Abbott Lawrence Lowell. Fireside poet James Russell Lowell was her first cousin.

She never attended college because her family did not consider that proper for a woman, but she compensated with avid reading and near-obsessive book-collecting. She lived as a socialite and travelled widely, turning to poetry in 1902 after being inspired by a performance of Eleonora Duse in Europe.

Lowell was said to be lesbian, and in 1912 she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell were reputed to be lovers. Russell is reputed to be the subject of her more erotic work, most notably the love poems contained in 'Two Speak Together', a subsection of Pictures of the Floating World. The two women traveled to England together, where Lowell met Ezra Pound, who at once became a major influence and a major critic of her work. Lowell has been linked romantically to writer Mercedes de Acosta, but the only evidence of any contact between them is a brief correspondence about a planned memorial for Duse.

Lowell died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925 at the age of 51.


Lowell's first published work appeared in 1910 in Atlantic Monthly. The first published collection of her poetry, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, appeared two years later in 1912.

Though she sometimes wrote sonnets, Lowell was an early adherent to the "free verse" method of poetry and one of the major champions of this method. Untermeyer writes that "She was not only a disturber but an awakener."[1] In many poems she dispenses with line breaks so that the work looks like prose on the page. This technique she labeled "polyphonic prose".[2]

Throughout her working life Lowell was a promoter of both contemporary and historical poets. Her book Fir-Flower Poets was a poetical re-working of literal translations of the works of ancient Chinese poets, notably Li Tai-po (701-762). Her writing also included critical works on French literature. When she died she was attempting to complete her two-volume biography of John Keats. Writing of Keats, Lowell said that "The stigma of oddness is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius."[3]

Lowell was a short but imposing figure who kept her hair in a bun and wore a pince-nez. She smoked cigars constantly, claiming that they lasted longer than cigarettes. A glandular problem kept her perpetually overweight, so that poet Witter Bynner once said, in a cruel comment repeated by Ezra Pound and thereafter commonly misattributed to him, that she was a "hippopoetess."[4]

Lowell not only published her own work but also that of other writers. According to Untermyer, she "captured" the Imagist movement from Ezra Pound. Pound threatened to sue her for bringing out her three-volume series Some Imagist Poets, and thereafter called the American Imagists the "Amygist" movement. Pound criticized her as not an imagist but merely a rich woman who was able to financially assist the publication of imagist poetry. She said that Imagism was weak before she took it up, whereas others said it became weak after Pound's "exile" towards Vorticism.

Altercation with F. Holland Day Edit

Lowell was frustrated in composing her biography of Keats by the famous publisher and photographer, F. Holland Day. Day, alongside an unrivaled possession of Keatsiana, possessed exclusive copies of Fanny Brawne's letters to Keats. Fanny was the woman whom Keats had unsuccessfully pursued and the letters were therefore of considerable biographical interest. Lowell, who hoped to publish the definitive volume of biography, was forced to pursue a reluctant and rather mischievously reticent Day for these artifacts with little success.


Amy Lowell Time magazine cover 1925

Amy Lowell on the cover of Time magazine in 1925

In 1926, the year after her death, Lowell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for What's O'Clock.

In the post-World War II years, Lowell (like many other women writers) was largely forgotten, but with the renaissance of the women's movement in the 1970s, women's studies brought her back to light. According to Heywood Broun, however, Lowell personally argued against feminism.[5]

Additional sources of interest in Lowell today come from the anti-war sentiment of the oft-taught poem "Patterns"; her personification of inanimate objects, as in "The Green Bowl," and "The Red Lacquer Music Stand"; and her lesbian themes, including the love poems addressed to Ada Dwyer Russell in "Two Speak Together" and her poem "The Sisters" which addresses her female poetic predecessors.




  • Six French Poets: Studies in contemporary literature. New York: Macmillan, 1915; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1967.
  • Tendencies in Modern American Poetry. New York: Macmillan, 1917; New York: Haskell House, 1970.
  • John Keats. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1925; Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1969. Volume I, Volume II.
  • The Madonna of Carthagena. privately printed, 1927.
  • Poetry and Poets: Essays (edited by Ferris Greenslet). Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1930; New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1971.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Complete Poetical Works, and selected writings (edited by Naoki Ohnishi). (6 volumes), Kyoto, Japan: Eureka Press.




  • The letters of D.H. Lawrence & Amy Lowell, 1914-1925 (edited by E. Claire Healey & Keith Cushman). Black Sparrow, 1985.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation. [6]

A Lady, by Amy Lowell

A Lady, by Amy Lowell

Poems by Amy LowellEdit

  1. The Middleton Place
  2. Petals

See alsoEdit

Winter's Turning Amy Lowell Audiobook Short Poetry

Winter's Turning Amy Lowell Audiobook Short Poetry



  1. Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco, William Sullivan (1990). Modern American poetry, 1865-1950. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780870237201. 
  2. Michel Delville (1998). The American prose poem. University Press of Florida. p. 6. ISBN 9780813015910. 
  3. Amy Lowell (1925). John Keats. II. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY. p. 152. 
  4. Adrienne Munich, Melissa Bradshaw (2004). Amy Lowell, American modern. Rutgers University Press. p. 171. ISBN 9780813533568. 
  5. Sonja Samberger (2005). Artistic outlaws. Berlin-Hamburg-Münster: LIT Verlag. pp. 43-44. ISBN 9783825886165. 
  6. "Amy Lowell," Poetry Foundation, Web, June 29, 2011.

External linksEdit

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