True confession: I had never heard of the poet, Amy Lowell, until this gem came into my Inbox this week courtesy of the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day. I’m assuming I’m in the minority here, as a quick google search revealed that a collection of her work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. Additional research revealed that she inspired some controversy during her lifetime, and the more I read about her, the more intrigued I was.
An outspoken, cigar-smoking woman, Amy Lowell was a poet, a critic, a lecturer and also an avid collector during her lifetime. She was a huge fan of John Keats and during her lifetime, she amassed the largest collection of his work in private hands and wrote a 2-volume Keats biography. (She bequeathed her vast collection to Harvard University.) She was a huge supporter of Imagism (also new to me!), a movement in poetry whose adherents strove for “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.” (poets.org) and then moved into working with polyphonic prose, a “rhythmically free prose employing poetic devices such as assonance and alliteration.” (Collins English Dictionary) (You can read more about Amy Lowell and her work, here and here.) Don’t you love discovering a “new to you” poet?
I was surprised that this poem, Bath, was first published in 1916, as it felt quite contemporary to me. Lowell’s descriptive language and dynamic, inspired word choices wowed me. I was especially struck by the contrasts between a “fresh-washed” and scented day, sunlight boring, cleaving and cracking (such active almost aggressive verbs!), and languid water play.
Bath by Amy Lowell
The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.
Inspired by Amy Lowell, I attempted my own prose poem.
Light and Shadow
The rising sun has brushed away the lingering tendrils of fog and the air is redolent with the scent of roses.
The gauzy glow of light flows through the film of wispy curtains, bathing me as I sit at my desk, pen in hand. One sunbeam slices through a gap in the filtering cloth and shimmers in a path to the desk top, motes dancing along its trajectory. That single golden beam rekindles the old wood so it glows, amber-lit with embers of once lived days. Idly, I place my fingers in the light, setting the dust fairies swirling, whirling. I position my fingers and a lopsided rabbit and then a dog appear briefly in the spotlight. A fly vibrates lazily in the window, trapped between cloth and pane. His shadow movements dance in the wings.
Outside, framed by the window, the hydrangea blooms exuberantly. Its sun-lit, buoyant blossoms burn white against the verdant shade collecting in slumbering pools between leaves and stems. I sit back at my desk and relax into the moment, content to hold my pen loosely in my hand and to watch the play of light and shadow.
The air is infused with the scent of roses.
Molly Hogan (c) 2017
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Donna at Mainely Write
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