Moreover, the Moon
Moreover, the Moon
"Moreover, the Moon" was originally published in 1982, sixteen years after Mina Loy's death. The work first appeared in The Last Lunar Baedeker, a collection of Loy's work, edited by Roger Conover. Conover located the piece in Loy's papers, which were donated to the Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University by Loy's daughter, Joella Haweis Bayer, in 1974 and 1975. Conover's first collection of Loy's work is now out of print; however, in 1996, he published a second collection, The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy, in which "Moreover, the Moon" also appears. This later collection includes all but ten poems that were published before 1966, which is about two-thirds of the poetry that Loy wrote during her lifetime.
Although the original manuscript of "Moreover, the Moon" was not dated, Conover includes the piece with Loy's other work from the years 1942–1949 in a chapter called "Compensations of Poverty." The chapter title was taken from a folder in Loy's papers that contained several poems written during these years.
Penned more than twenty years after the first publication of Loy's collected poems in Lunar Baedeker, "Moreover, the Moon" returns to the poet's earlier thematic interest in feminism and patriarchy as well as to her use of the moon as a poetic image. In "Moreover, the Moon," she employs lunar imagery to explore issues of oppression and self-knowledge. She concludes that patriarchy is a lasting social institution and that women will not likely overcome its influence in their lives until they realize this and seek to define themselves outside its shadow.
Mina Loy was born Mina Gertrude Lowy in London on December 27, 1882. She was the oldest of three sisters born to a second-generation Hungarian Jew, Sigmund Lowy, and an English Protestant mother, Julia Bryan. Contrary to her mother's staunch Victorian values, Loy's father initiated her foray into the artistic world by sending her to art school in Munich at seventeen. She continued her studies in London and Paris. An accomplished painter and poet, Loy also tried her hand at writing novels and dramas, acting, fashion and lampshade design, drawing, sculpting, and modeling.
Loy moved to Florence in 1906 with her first husband, Stephen Haweis. She endeared herself with the leading futurist thinkers of the time, including F. T. Marinetti and Giovanni Papini. Inspired by the futurist call for the rejection of the status quo in literary construction, Loy began to experiment with free verse poetry, abandoning conventional aesthetics and form.
In 1916, she traveled to the United States where her poetry had found its way into little magazines of the time. Having divorced Haweis, Loy again found herself ensconced in impressive intellectual circles, mingling with the who's who of the New York dada movement, including Marcel Duchamp, William Carlos Williams, and her second husband, Arthur Cravan. Loy was the epitome of a modern bohemian woman, and her poetry was both hailed and hated by her contemporaries. She was often admonished for its sexual subject matter; however, as an early feminist, she had much to say about the status of women. Some critics found her writing inaccessible and unnecessarily racy and dense, yet those who appreciated her work found her brave and brilliant.
Following her celebrity, and infamy, in the United States, Loy's life became marked by tragedy and economic strife. Cravan disappeared, and her son died. She returned to Paris, and while she still frequented the salons du jour, she struggled to support herself and her two daughters. She opened a lampshade design shop and tried her hand at commercial inventions. In 1936, fearing Hitler's encroachment, Loy returned to New York. She became a naturalized citizen in 1946. In her later years, she became reclusive but continued artistic endeavors as a resident of the Bowery, Manhattan's skid row. Loy wrote poetry about street people and created artistic assemblages and collages made of trash. Some of these pieces were shown at a 1959 Bodley Gallery show curated by Marcel Duchamp. That same year, she received the Copley Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Art.
Ironically, Loy never considered herself a poet and spent little time trying to publish or develop a body of work. In her lifetime, she published two collections: Lunar Baedecker, in 1923, and Lunar Baedeker & Time-Tables, in 1958. Not until sixteen years after her death was "Moreover, the Moon" posthumously published in The Last Lunar Baedeker.
Loy died in Aspen, Colorado, on September 25, 1966.
[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]
"Moreover, the Moon," is a short poem consisting of fifty-one words that are crafted into five brief stanzas. The first stanza reads like a request: "Face of the skies / preside / over our wonder," and the second follows in similar fashion: "Fluorescent / truant of heaven / draw us under." In addition to being written as a request might be, these first two stanzas are linked by the end rhyme found in their last lines: "wonder" and "under." Both stanzas invoke the image of the moon, which is initially alluded to in the poem's title. The first stanza takes the lunar reference a step further by addressing a "face" in the sky, which most likely refers to the man in the moon. Whereas the moon is a symbol that is often associated with the feminine in art and literature, Loy's specific attention to the face suggests that she is using the image as a masculine one instead. In the second stanza, the man in the moon is called a "truant of heaven," suggesting that there is something negative or sinful about him. Indeed, in popular myth, the man in the moon is said to be nailed there to atone for his sins. In these first two stanzas, Loy identifies the moon as a masculine symbol and one that has a certain amount of power. He "preside[s]" over the writer's "wonder" and has the ability to "draw [her] under," as if to possibly hypnotize, or in the case of the riptide that is controlled by the moon, to carry her out to sea.
In the third stanza, Loy again addresses the moon, this time as a "Silver, circular corpse." Instead of posing a request in this stanza, Loy uses it to make a declarative statement, indicating that the moon's "decease / infects us with unendurable ease." If one considers that the man in the moon is a symbol for patriarchy, this stanza suggests that patriarchy's demise leaves women in a state of calm that is riddled with some sort of anxiety. The comfort women feel is unendurable, perhaps because, like the moon, patriarchy never really ceases to exist. The moon is a permanent fixture in the earth's universe, and Loy metaphorically suggests here that so is patriarchy's control over women's lives.
As indicated by the comma that follows "ease," the fourth stanza is a continuation of the sentence begun in the third stanza. "Touching nerve-terminals / to thermal icicles" refers back to the "decease" mentioned in the second line of stanza 3. On a first read, "thermal" and "icicles" seem like an unlikely, if not completely counterintuitive, match; however, Loy's use of this image coming in contact with nerve-terminals is an important metaphor for conveying her thoughts about the impact that patriarchy has on women's lives. By definition, an icicle is a liquid that is freezing or forming. When an icicle comes in contact with a thermal element, or something related to heat, it naturally begins to melt, or be destroyed. Nerve terminals are the physical pathways that enable people to think, move, and feel. By exposing these to thermal icicles, Loy suggests that in the face of patriarchy, women's lives are being simultaneously made and torn apart.
Loy omits the period at the end of the fourth stanza, suggesting that the first line in stanza 5 continues the thoughts in the previous two sections. Read in this way, "Coercive as coma / frail as bloom" can mean that patriarchy's presence in women's lives is as compelling as a coma is at relieving someone of consciousness. At the same time, this control is described as "frail," meaning that the power men exert may not be as strong as some might think. Loy continues with "innuendos of your inverse dawn / suffuse the self." In this line, Loy literally says that even a hint of the moon setting illuminates the self. Metaphorically, she means that a hint of patriarchy's control loosening allows women to know themselves better. This line is ironic, however, because in the previous sections, she has alluded to the idea that the moon never sets or that patriarchy never wholly disappears. Thus, this line suggests that women will never fully know themselves in the presence of patriarchy. She finishes the poem with "our every corpuscle become an elf." By stating that every living cell becomes an elf, Loy concludes that women become elves, or more pointedly, that women who believe they truly know themselves are only something of folklore.
Patriarchy and the Oppression of Women
Loy uses lunar imagery in "Moreover, the Moon" as an extended metaphor about patriarchy's presence in women's lives. She establishes the metaphor by addressing the moon as the "Face in the skies," calling attention to the man in the moon rather than to the moon as a female presence. In the first two stanzas, she speaks for all women when she requests that the man in the moon "preside / over our wonder" and "draw us under." Later in the poem, she talks about the moon's "decease" and its "inverse dawn." In both instances, the fading of the moon's light symbolizes patriarchy's demise as a social institution. Interestingly, when the moon sets, it never truly disappears from the universe. Further, its light is temporarily replaced with that of the sun, another predominantly masculine symbol. Loy's mention of the moon's "decease" and an "inverse dawn" exposes her belief that although patriarchy, as represented by the light of the moon, may wane, it will reappear, just as the moon will become full or rise again. By evoking the image of the sun's brighter light replacing that of the moon, Loy further suggests that the face of patriarchy may change and potentially its influence will become greater.
Loy initially invokes the theme of consciousness in the second stanza when she asks the "truant of heaven" to "draw us under." In addition to bringing to mind the moon's role in changing the ocean tides and their power to sweep one out to sea, this stanza makes one think of sleeping, being hypnotized, or of being lulled into a state of mental passivity. Later in the poem, she uses the phrase "Coercive as coma," which again foregrounds the idea of consciousness, or in this case unconsciousness. Loy's careful joining of the consciousness theme with that of patriarchy suggests her concern about men's power to influence women's minds. Further, it underscores her potential criticism of women who let themselves be drawn under and mentally controlled by men.
Topics For Further Study
- Read Loy's "Feminist Manifesto" and discuss whether the ideas presented there can be found in "Moreover, the Moon." How does Loy's perspective on feminism compare and contrast to what you think a feminist is today? How does Loy's thinking compare and contrast to that of other leading feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, and Kate Millet?
- Research the cubist movement in art and literature and discuss whether cubist techniques and approaches can be found in "Moreover, the Moon." Two cubist techniques that you may want to initially consider are fragmentation and the use of collage. If you find that such elements are lacking, try to rewrite "Moreover, the Moon" to include them, or write your own poem using these techniques.
- Read Loy's poems "Apology of Genius" and "Lunar Baedeker" and compare and contrast her use of moon imagery in these works with that found in "Moreover, the Moon." How does Loy's use of the moon differ from that of other poets, such as Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Gabriele d'Annunzio?
- After reading and analyzing "Moreover, the Moon," write down two points that you think Loy is trying to get across to her readers. Then, spend twenty minutes trying to write a poem that conveys these ideas. You may want to use the sun or the stars as a central image. Gather in groups of three to share your poems and discuss whether this process was difficult or easy.
Another theme that Loy develops to support her argument about patriarchy's influence in women's lives is death. She evokes this theme through the use of the words "decease," "infects," and "corpse." She uses "corpse" and "decease" in reference to the moon or the man in the moon, suggesting that patriarchy is a dying institution. Interestingly, however, she says that it is the moon's "decease" that "infects us with unendurable ease." Loy selects the word "decease" instead of "death" and joins it in the same stanza with the word "ease." Visually, these words seem to rhyme, making one wonder if Loy meant for readers to associate "decease" with the similar word "disease." Her choice of the word "infects" confirms this supposition. Loy establishes a metaphor of infection and dying that begins with the moon's apparent "decease" and ends with women's "unendurable ease." As previously discussed, Loy believes that patriarchy will persist and that women's lives will continue to be haunted by its presence. Just as the moon will never really disappear, or die, women will never know an "ease," or state of mental calm and relaxation, that is not tainted by the specter of patriarchy. For Loy, the lasting presence of patriarchy is "unendurable," and the ease is a false comfort. In fact, such ease is like a slow death brought on by an infectious illness.
Freedom from Patriarchy
At the same time that Loy calls attention to the fact that patriarchy is seemingly a permanent social institution, she also suggests that freedom from its influence is not impossible. In the final stanza, she offers a glimmer of hope when she says that the moon or the man in the moon is "Coercive as coma / frail as bloom." Although he, or patriarchy, is as powerful as something that can completely rob someone of consciousness, there is also a fragility associated with him, or with patriarchy. Loy hints that women can become powerful and overcome patriarchy when she states in the final line of the poem that "our every corpuscle become an elf." Elves are mischievous and sometimes malicious, and they are known for their dislike of men. Further, in physics, corpuscular theory states that light is made up of corpuscles or particles that are given off by luminous bodies. If light in this poem is understood to be a metaphor for patriarchy and its power over women, then Loy's mention of corpuscles suggests that perhaps women can beat men at their own game by harnessing this light, as well as their own mischievousness, to work within the patriarchal systems and superstructures to disrupt and thus destabilize them.
Modernism and Free Verse
Loy is considered a modernist poet. In The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, which is edited by Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth, Vicki Mahaffey defines modernist as
a term most often used in literary studies to refer to an experimental, avant-garde style of writing prevalent between World War I and World War II, although it is sometimes applied more generally to the entire range of divergent tendencies within a longer period, from the 1890s to the present.
As someone who often diverged from using standard poetic forms and approaches, Loy's work clearly fits into this category. One element that is often associated with poetic modernism that Loy uses in "Moreover, the Moon" is free verse, which means it does not conform to a traditional poem form with a consistent metrical scheme or predictable rhyme.
Unlike some of Loy's other poetry, "Moreover, the Moon" employs a rhyme scheme. Despite its existence, it is sparse and inconsistent. In the first two stanzas, the last words in the third lines—"wonder" and "under"—rhyme, whereas in the third stanza, the last word in the second line, "decease," and the last word in the third line, "ease," only visually appear to rhyme. The fourth stanza brings back an end rhyme with "terminals" and "icicles," and the final stanza "self " and "elf " likewise finish the poem. Though scant, the presence of a rhyme scheme serves to unify the piece. One reading of this poem is that women need to work within the confines of patriarchy's accepted norms in order to destabilize it and to free themselves of its control. Loy's use of a rhyme scheme supports this reading in that she uses a traditional poetic element, or a form usually employed by male poets, to make a statement of protest about patriarchy.
In a life that spanned from 1897 to 1966, Loy enjoyed an existence richly influenced by an array of political and artistic movements. Although her mother was a traditional Victorian lady, Loy traded her conservative upbringing for a life outside the mainstream. From her time in Florence in the early 1900s to her final artistically productive days in New York during the 1940s and 1950s, Loy socialized and befriended avant-garde intellectuals who are in the early 2000s seen as icons of their respective movements. Her work was a product of a lifetime of exposure to leading intellectual thought, and it is as such that she wrote her final poetry, including "Moreover, the Moon."
Loy moved to Italy in the early 1900s when Italian futurism was in its infancy. She was active in the movement prior to World War I and had love affairs with two of its leading members: founder and poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Florentine writer Giovanni Papini. Loy became disenchanted with futurism because of its strong association with fascism and its antifeminist perspectives.
Futurism was an artistic movement with strong political underpinnings. The movement officially began with Marinetti's publication of the "Founding and Manifesto of Futurism" in 1909 and found its motivation in his desire to make Italy a more modern European nation. On the artistic front, the futurists sought to challenge traditional art and culture in order to advance the merits of the mechanical age and modern age. Futurism's impact was wide reaching, and in addition to finding supporters among the literati of the day, the movement's tenets were also embraced and experimented with by painters, sculptors, typographers, product designers, architects, photographers, performing artists, and graphic artists. Loyal to the concepts of change and innovation, futurists embraced dynamism, speed, and mechanical power. Marinetti himself was a proponent of war, violence, and conflict, and he even called for the destruction of institutions such as libraries and museums. As leading futurist painter and sculptor Umberto Boccioni states in Artists on Art: From the XIV to the XX Century, the futurists intended "to destroy the cult of the past. . . . To despise utterly every form of imitation. . . . To extol every form of originality, however audacious. . . . To rebel against the tyranny of the words 'harmony' and 'good taste.' . . . [and] To sweep from the field of art all motifs and subjects that have already been exploited."
In poetry, this innovation extended to poetry. Futurist poets employed new techniques intended to engage both the eyes and the ears. In the extreme, futurist poetry lacked punctuation and relied exclusively on the use of nouns. Futurist poets used onomatopoeia and consciously discarded standard forms and conventions in an effort to shock and incite a reaction in their audiences.
Loy wrote her "Feminist Manifesto" in November 1914 in response to what she perceived as the futurist's misogynistic attitudes. In Roger Conover's publication of the manifesto in The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy, Loy dramatically states that "The feminist movement as at present instituted is inadequate," and she positions men and women as enemies. She does not call for reform or for equality; instead she asks that women look at themselves to see what they are instead of what they are not. Loy's focus on women and their sexuality is a theme found in much of her poetry.
The feminist movement called for equality between the sexes. Feminists believed that patriarchal culture, traditions, and norms oppressed women, leaving them marginalized and therefore absent from or powerless to participate in important social, cultural, political, and economic activity. One of the earliest feminist treatises was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Londoner Mary Wollstonecraft, which was published in 1792. Wollstonecraft believed in education, empowerment, and equality for women. During the latter half of the 1800s and early 1900s, feminist activity centered on women gaining the right to vote. In 1929, Virginia Woolf published A Room of One's Own, in which she wrote about a woman's need to be financially independent and to have a place of her own in which to write.
During the war years, Loy befriended William Carlos Williams and other New York dada writers. She also had close ties to Marcel Duchamp, the leading member of the New York Dada movement, throughout her life. In 1959, he curated her final collage show at New York's Bodley Gallery.
The artistic and literary movement known as dadaism began during World War I with independent efforts spawning in New York and Zurich. The movement spread across Europe and was relatively short-lived, dying out in the early 1920s.
Like the futurists, the dadaists sought to challenge and overturn traditional thought and artistic aesthetics. They were anti-artists who were disillusioned by Western culture and appalled by the Great War. In the ninth edition of Art through the Ages, editors Horst de la Croix, Richard G. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick note that "The Dadaists undertook the project of reform by way of protest, turning the conventions of art upside down. . . . [They] intended to shock viewers by . . . outrageous lack of conventional meaning." Marcel Duchamp's famous "Bicycle Wheel," which was a bicycle wheel mounted on top of a stool, exemplifies the movement's attempts to use something familiar in unexpected ways as a means of encouraging new thought.
During the 1920s and the beginnings of the surrealist movement, Loy enmeshed herself in Paris's literary and intellectual circles. Later, during World War II, she was back in New York and, through her previous son-in-law's art gallery, found herself in the company of leading surrealist poet and critic Andre Breton.
By 1924, the dada movement had fizzled out, and many of its followers now considered themselves surrealists. While still employing some dadaist techniques, the surrealists became interested in the unconscious and the world of dreams. They were inspired by the thinking of leading psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and wanted to use art as a way to unite the unconscious with reality, thus creating the surreal. Well-known surrealists include Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró.
"Moreover, the Moon" is considered to be one of Loy's works from the 1940s, although the piece has no known composition date. It was originally published in 1982 by Roger Conover in The Last Lunar Baedeker. Whereas some of Loy's poems, including "Love Songs," "Lunar Baedeker," "Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose," and "Parturition," have received some (albeit limited) critical attention, "Moreover, the Moon" has been critically ignored.
This lack of attention is perhaps a result of Loy's general absence from the accepted canon of Western poetry. Conover notes in his second collection of her work, The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy:
Mina Loy is not for everyone. It is not by accident that her work has been misplaced. 'Difficult' is the word that has been most often used to describe her.... Her work has never attracted casual readers. It is easiest simply to ignore her.... But her readers, if small in number, have also been large in commitment. Once discovered, if her poems do not immediately repel, they possess. Her work is far more likely to be a toxic or a tonic—quickly sworn off or gradually acquired as a lifelong habit—than a passing interest.
Conover's sentiments precisely describe Loy's historical critical reception. As far back as the early 1900s, her writing was either lauded or deeply disliked. Loy's supporters admired her intellect and daring, but her detractors detested her for what they perceived as often inaccessible, morally offensive, and technically weak writing.
Compare & Contrast
1940s: Women constitute approximately 24 percent of the total labor force in the United States.
Today: Women constitute approximately 47 percent of the total labor force in the United States.
1940s: Life expectancy for women in the United States is 68.2.
Today: Life expectancy for women in the United States nears 80.
1940s: Approximately 77,000 bachelor's degrees and 429 doctorate degrees are conferred to women in the United States.
Today: Approximately 712,000 bachelor's degrees and 20,000 doctorate degrees are conferred to women in the United States.
1940s: Claire Giannini Hoffman becomes the first female president of Bank of America, the world's largest bank.
Today: Carly Fiorina leads Hewlett Packard as its first female CEO and chairman.
Today: Minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.
1940s: Elizabeth Kidd coins the phrase "Never underestimate the power of a woman" for use in advertisements in the Ladies' Home Journal.
Today: Harnessing the image of female power, athletic gear manufacturer Nike couples images of athletic women with the phrase "Do it" in their television ads.
Despite such controversy, Loy was embraced by or likened to many of the important and recognized American poets. Ezra Pound, one of her strongest early proponents, admired Loy and in the March 1918 volume of The Little Review paid her a high complement by classifying her poetry as "logopoeia," or "poetry that is akin to nothing but language, which is a dance of the intelligence among words and ideas and modification of ideas and characters." Like Pound, Yvor Winters found Loy's writing incredibly compelling, stating in the June 1926 volume of The Dial that she was "intensely cerebral" and that some of her poetry was "the most brilliant and unshakably solid satirical" work of the time. Loy was often compared to Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens, and Winters considered her innovative work to be preceded only by that of Emily Dickinson.
Robeson is a freelance writer with a master's degree in English. In this essay, Robeson presents a feminist reading of "Moreover, the Moon" that outlines Loy's disappointment in women's ability to rid themselves of patriarchal influence and control.
For many, the joy of reading poetry and other literature is found in the process of deciphering the text. Ferreting out the author's hidden (or not so hidden) meanings is solving a puzzle that rewards the reader with a deeper understanding of the work and its author. But what happens when a text seems to challenge those attempts at every turn? Enter Mina Loy.
In the introduction to The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy, editor Roger Conover states
'Difficult' is the word that has been most often used to describe her.... She is not an academic poet, but her poems are of the intellect. In order to read her with profit, you need at least four things: patience, intelligence, experience, and a dictionary.
Nothing could be closer to the truth. Loy's poems often lack punctuation, disregard grammatical norms, and are peppered with arcane or invented words. On a first read, they leave many readers with more questions than answers. What does "glumes" or "scholiums" mean? Where does one thought stop and the next begin? What could Loy possibly be trying to communicate?
Loy was equally challenging to her contemporaries as she is to readers in the early 2000s. Even Alfred Kreymborg, who published her poetry in the literary magazine Others during the early 1900s found her perplexing. In "Originals and Eccentrics," which can be found in his Our Singing Strength: An Outline of American Poetry, 1620–1930, Kreymborg states that "Though I printed the work she gave me almost in toto, much of it puzzled me at the time. I felt she might have made a greater effort to communicate herself more clearly." Clear communication, however, seems not to have been Loy's chief motivating force.
Like other art created during the first half of the twentieth century, Loy's poetry challenged mainstream aesthetics and thought and was written with a certain amount of shock value in mind. She goaded, provoked, infuriated, and even horrified with purpose. Through abstract and dense imagery and language, Loy explored, shaped, and solidified her own thoughts, perspectives, and opinions.
In "Moreover, the Moon," she invites readers to examine the issue of patriarchy and its impact on women's lives. As the title of the work suggests, "Moreover, the Moon" returns to Loy's earlier exploration of lunar imagery. In the title, she selects the word "Moreover," indicating that she has more to say about the themes she previously presented using this imagery. In " 'Intermittent—Unfinishing': Mina Loy and the Elusive Text as Resistance," which appeared in HOW2, Hilda Bronstein states that Loy "called into question the sexual ideologies of her time" and experienced "anxiety . . . with regard to the oppressive constraints of patriarchy upon her own subjectivity." Bronstein continues by noting that Loy's "Apology of Genius" and "Lunar Baedeker," which both employ moon imagery, offer "a gendered critique of Futurism and an assertion of the female poet's artistry and selfhood." She continues to note that Loy's writing
is the assertion of her own status as a woman experimentalist in the predominately male communities of avant-garde artists and writers.... Although her work is inextricably linked to the subversive and iconoclastic activities of the Italian Futurists, New York Dada and French Surrealists, her poetry also constitutes a challenge to them, one which was specifically grounded in gender.
Bronstein's assessment of Loy's earlier works is valuable in that it indicates Loy's clear concerns about gender roles twenty-plus years before "Moreover, the Moon" was written. But how does one get from discussing a silver corpse and corpuscles becoming an elf to the concept of female identity and the role of patriarchy in women's lives? Perhaps it is best to start from the beginning.
In the first stanza, Loy invokes the image of the moon by addressing the "Face of the skies." A Westerner reading this work may think of God or the man in the moon. Though either direction makes for an interesting reading, the poem's title suggests that the latter may be a more obvious first approach. Although the moon is often associated with the feminine in art and literature, another popular myth is that a man was nailed to the moon to repent for his sins. In "Moreover, the Moon," Loy foregrounds this nameless male figure, calling him not by a name but just simply a "Face." The face belongs to an unidentifiable man, and thus, figuratively, it could belong to any man or, taken a step further, to all men, or patriarchy at large. The male figure she calls attention to is not of this world, and she further imbues him with power by using the word "preside," which connotes authority and control. With Loy's strong feminist beliefs in mind, one can read her tone in this poem as almost sarcastic or disdainful as she continues with the request for the "Face of the skies" to "preside over our wonder," or our curiosity and inquisitiveness. Her use of the plural possessive pronoun "our" suggests that Loy speaks not just for herself, but for other women as well. In these opening lines, which consist of eight short words, Loy sets up an image of a male figure who controls and inscribes women's ability to question and be curious. Figuratively, she suggests that patriarchy limits the ways in which women participate in and experience the world.
It was likely not lost on Loy that the man in the moon was a sinner. In the next stanza, she calls the moon a "Fluorescent / truant of heaven," suggesting that there may indeed be something deviant or sinful about him or, more pointedly, that the nature of patriarchy is tainted by immorality. As a truant, he shirks his heavenly duties and is implicitly not doing as God would have intended.
While Loy may be coyly aligning herself and her opinions about the status of women with those of God, it is also possible to read this stanza with the more etymologically distant definition of "truant" in mind. The Middle English and Old French roots of "truant" are "vagabond" and "vagrant" respectively. The moon that traverses the night sky is indeed a heavenly wanderer. As Loy chides the man in the moon to "draw us under," she expresses her disdain by calling him a truant, which, like vagabond and vagrant, carries a negative connotation. Taken most literally, this line refers to the idea that as the moon begins to wander in the sky, or to rise each night, women's consciousness is affected as they are "drawn under" or put into a sleep state. Read in another way, this line evokes the image of the riptide or undertow current and its ability to carry people out to sea to both their death. Metaphorically, Loy uses these images to outline the power that the man in the moon, or patriarchy, has over women's minds and bodies.
As she begins the third stanza, one would expect her sardonic plea to continue. Instead, this stanza marks a shift in the poem. Signaling the change, she breaks the end rhyme found in the previous two stanzas and uses brief alliteration ("Silver, circular") in the first line to distinguish it from the preceding sections. As the third of five stanzas, this section is central to the piece both in placement and in thought. Loy's choice of the word "decease" instead of "death" implies that the moon's waning is in process rather than complete. Figuratively, patriarchy has not disappeared, but is rather in the process of dying out. Interestingly, the waning of patriarchal control "infects" women "with unendurable ease," or leaves them in a state of freedom and comfort that is marred by something infectious and "unendurable." For Loy, freedom from patriarchy means that women must decide who they are without having anything to which they can compare themselves. In her "Feminist Manifesto," which can be found in Conover's The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy, she wrote, "Leave off looking to men to find out what you are not—seek within yourselves to find out what you are." This stanza suggests that while the absence of patriarchy is desirable, the burden of self-determination may be less so for women unaccustomed to such freedom. Alternatively, Loy may be employing moon imagery here to suggest that although patriarchy may appear to be fading, it is not actually doing so. The waning of the moon is only a matter of one's perspective. From one vantage point, the full moon may be visible; yet from another, just a sliver may be seen. Similarly, although the moon seems to come and go with each new night and day, it is a constant entity in the universe. By coupling the word "decease" with lunar imagery, Loy introduces the concept that something can be both present and absent, appearing and disappearing, at the same time. Although appearances may change, patriarchy, like the moon, remains ever-present. It is this ever-presence then that infects the ease that women feel in the face of new freedoms. Instead of truly dying, patriarchy simply morphs and reemerges to challenge women's self-determination in new areas of their lives. Although women can feel good about their achievements and sense of independence in some respects, patriarchal control continues to define their existence by the eternal contradiction of its presence and absence in their lives.
What Do I Read Next?
- "Apology of Genius" and "Lunar Baedeker" (1920) both include lunar imagery and can be found in Roger Conover's The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy.
- Becoming Marianne Moore: Early Poems 1907–1924 (2002) provides readers with a look at the evolution of Moore's work. Using facsimile copies of revisions of Moore's poetry, editor Robin G. Schulze shows the modernist writer in process. Moore's and Loy's works were often compared to one another.
- Marianne Moore: Complete Poems (1994) provides readers with sixty years of Moore's writing, complete with detailed notes about the inspiration for her poems as well as individual lines.
- Loy is also often compared to poet William Carlos Williams. In The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: 1909–1939 and The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: 1939–1962, which were reproduced in 1991, editors A. Walton Litz and Christoph MacGowan present an impressive grouping of Williams's work.
- Another contemporary often mentioned in the same breath as Loy is Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose (1997) provides readers with all of Stevens's books of poetry as well as a generous collection of his prose writing.
- Shadow-Box (2000) is a fictionalized account of Loy's life constructed through imaginary letters written between her and Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. In this first novel by Antonia Logue, Loy's second husband, Arthur Cravan, resurfaces after close to thirty years and works with Johnson to figure out the best way to reunite with his wife.
- Albert J. Guerard's The Hotel in the Jungle (1996) is about Americans venturing to Santa Rosalia, Mexico, and takes place during three different time periods: 1870, 1922, and 1982. In the middle section, Guerard includes a character based on Loy.
- In The Moon: Myth and Legend (2003), author Jules Cashford surveys the myths, symbols, and poetic images of the moon from Paleolithic times to the present.
Whereas the third stanza outlines this contradiction, the fourth marks its result on women. Nerve terminals govern all that women are. They are the receptors and transmitters that make it possible to feel, think, touch, listen, see, taste, understand, breathe, and more. Using the image of "nerve-terminals" touching "thermal icicles," Loy points out that the pretense of patriarchy's demise continues to expose the very core of women's beings to that eternal contradiction. In that an icicle is made from melting water that freezes and the word "thermal" is inherently associated with heat, Loy suggests that women's lives, like a "thermal icicle," are both being formed and unformed at the same time. In the face of changing patriarchal challenges, women may take two steps forward to find themselves only one step ahead.
Modern readers might hope for an ending in which women prevail; however, in a final flourish, Loy ends with "Coercive as coma, frail as bloom / innuendoes of your inverse dawn suffuse the self; / Our every corpuscle become an elf." The lack of a period after "icicles" suggests that "Coercive as coma" links back to patriarchy's decease in stanza 3, yet the use of a capital C here ties the phrase to "innuendoes" in the following line. Not mistakenly, both readings seem to point to the same conclusion. The moon's decease, or even a hint of it beginning to set, represents only a pretense that patriarchy is disappearing as a force in women's lives. The moon will rise again, as will patriarchy. This pretense is convincing yet fragile. It is as compelling as the loss of consciousness, yet its delicateness suggests its tenuousness as a façade. Loy chooses "Coercive" and "frail" to describe the façade; however, these words can also function as judgments about the women who are seemingly coerced into unconsciousness by their own moral weakness or frailty. It is in a deceived and unwitting state that they become enlightened and find their true selves. The light of the moon's "inverse dawn suffuse[s] the self." Ironically, their self-realization is an illusion that is tainted by their own inability to see through the guise of patriarchy's demise. In a mocking final statement, Loy concludes, "Our every corpuscle become an elf." In the end, women are only the diminutive of man and enlightened women freed from the specter of patriarchy are only something of folklore.
Or are they? By mentioning an elf, Loy leaves the door open for an alternate reading that points to hope instead of hopelessness. If women become elf-like, they may, despite the challenges posed to them, rise up and be empowered by a new sense of mischief and even maliciousness, and locate and take their deserved place in society. Women need only to see through the façade in order to pierce its fragility and truly access their magical individuality.
Loy believed in the power of women, yet she was also critical of their role in their own subordination. In her poem, Loy ironically exposes patriarchy at the same time that she faults women for their seemingly mindless inability to create identities for themselves that are not inscribed by the rubric of patriarchal institutions and norms. By the end of the work, the first two stanzas become even more effective. In them, Loy mocks women for their complicity. By being blinded by an illusion of self-knowledge and independence, women are responsible for patriarchy's continuous ability to "preside over [their] wonder" and to "draw [them] under." They may as well simply request the oppression as Loy does in the opening lines. "Moreover, the Moon" provides a pessimistic critique of women's progress; however, as one of Loy's final feminist polemics, it also serves as a call to action. By pointing out the nature of women's deception, Loy prompts change and encourages women to progress from disillusionment to true enlightenment.
Source: Dustie Robeson, Critical Essay on "Moreover, the Moon," in Poetry for Students, Gale, 2004.
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In the following review, Rawson praises Loy's work as "a poetry imagined and written before its time."
If the writer Mina Loy is remembered at all, it's as a kind of shadow figure. There she is, scratching around in the margins of Gertrude Stein's memoirs. Or Marcel Duchamp's. Or Djuna Barnes's. Or in some of the many romans a clef that came out of Greenwich Village's expatriate bohemia during the Great War era. It was the heyday of Cubism and Futurism, of radical feminist manifestos, Freudian psychoanalysis, and fly-by-night playhouses. And with all that, around 1916, came the incursion of free verse poetry, American style, the likes of which no one had imagined even a decade before. Little hand-set zines cropped up in the Bowery's back rooms, with names like Others and Rogue and contents that, to the critical ear of the literary old guard, sounded like boiled static. Loy's poems back then—full of cerebral eroticism and slangy pig latin—were first on the blacklist. But it was a short-lived kind of fame.
Why some writers survive in the canon while others are blotted out may have as much to do with luck as talent. Loy was unlucky, in love and in legacy. Her various husbands tended to run off with their mistresses or drown at sea, leaving Loy, by age 35, with a flock of kids and a smeared reputation in an age when virginity and female virtue still mattered, even for an avant-garde artist. Academic critics tended to despise her, as much for what they viewed as her wanton conduct as for the manner in which Loy translated this autobiographical material into verse. On the other hand, Ezra Pound believed at the time that Loy, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams were the only poets in America doing anything worth noting. But like Emily Dickinson, Loy published only a smattering of her work: two obscure books and a couple dozen poems in her lifetime. By 1930, the volumes were out of print, other manuscripts were lost, and Loy had retreated into the history of shadows.
So why resurrect her? Lord knows we've had enough of hack critics and their pet projects, trying to breathe new life into forgotten writers better left forgotten. Roger L. Conover, who's been fighting to bring Loy into the modern-day canon since the early 1980s, and has selected and edited a new edition of Loy's poetry, The Lost Lunar Baedeker, puts the argument for her revival best in his introduction: "I believe there are certain guidebooks we should take with us as we navigate our way toward the next century, and that Mina Loy's is one of them. I think her poems have a relevance to the formation of a new modernity, and that she might yet prove to be the poet of her century."
Reading through the collection, it's not difficult to understand why, though Loy's poems are themselves difficult. The diction seems delivered from on high, in archaic phrasings. Her lexicon is like a curio cabinet stuffed with odds and ends—jazzy slang and black vernacular, rare vocabulary and variant spellings, nonce words that sound convincing but couldn't be found in any dictionary. Metrically, these poems sound like the blowing of a wrecked tuba; though her later verse (particularly after 1940) makes clear that lyricism was always optional. For Loy, writing against it was of both political and artistic significance. The effect, as it must have been in her day, is stunning. Take "Songs to Joannes," a series of 34 love poems from 1917. In Loy's signature voiceprint, the cycle collapses two strains of imagery—the grotesque and the gorgeous—into a sort of unsolvable riddle: "Pig Cupid his rosy snout / Rooting erotic garbage" it begins. The poem then fidgets and toys with its lovers' bodies, trying them on for size, knocking sparks off their union, and teasing them finally into the shape of gross machines. No pretty sentiments here, which is what annoyed her critics most: neither the poems nor their author behaved very properly. Announcing, in a poem titled "Joyce's Ulysses," that "The Spirit / is impaled upon the phallus" didn't help Loy's standing.
Even after 80 years, time hasn't succeeded in taming Loy's poems. While the collection isn't complete or definitive, it does include four rebel essays and all but ten poems published in her life-time—about two-thirds of her total work. (And a more complete picture of Loy's life comes from a new biography also published by FSG, Carolyn Burke's Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy.) Until now, no record had existed for many of the poems but the few remaining, dog-eared zines, and many of those were never typewritten or proofread. Even her first book, Lunar Baedecker, had a misspelling. Loy's intended use of blank spaces, dashes, indentations, typography—all essential to both function and form in the poems—has been long lost, if any coherent method ever did exist. Likely it didn't, given Loy's faith in the dadaesque credo of railing against convention and consistency.
What does survive is a poetry imagined and written before its time, and whose influence on Loy's contemporaries can't be measured. (Many of the dead who do well in today's anthologies, including Pound, Williams, and Eliot, conceded their debt to her.) In "Aid of the Madonna" Loy writes, "a moment is Time surrounded by itself." And in that, she may have predicted a future, long after her momentary star blazed and burned out, when readers would cast back in time and retrieve her work from its undeserved exile.
Source: Josie Rawson, "Lost & Found," in City Pages, Vol. 17, No. 827, October 9, 1996.
In the following review, Odlin provides biographical details while discussing Loy's collection but cannot reach a final decision on how Loy should be viewed in posterity.
The name of Mina Loy's father, a tailor, was Lowy, that of his father, without doubt, Lowy; they were Hungarian Jews. Her mother, Julia Bryan, may have been Irish and R.C. in origins, although the daughter always describes her—with contempt—as a flower ("The Rose," indeed) of the English lower middle classes. Given the prejudices of the age—see Disraeli's difficulties getting into Parliament, and the Parliamentary debates over Home Rule, for two apposite examples—this union must have been felt as a loss of caste, not to say defilement, on both sides. The infant Mina thus got a double dose:
. . . the alien
asylum of voluntary military
service paradise of the pound-sterling
where the domestic Jew in lieu
of knouts is lashed with tongues
('Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose,' 1923–25)
All this is not mere intrusion on the poet's privacy! The facts of her biography were an important part of her subject-matter, like it or not, and her formative years spent among conflicting standards must perforce have determined, to a great extent, the complex or wobbly irony of her attitude to the subjects she chose to write on. For starters we must give up the naif impression that she made herself up as she went along, like one of Wyndham Lewis' men-out-of-nowhere.
When she grew up she moved at high speed always: at 23 elected member of the Salon d'Automne, before she was 40 she had borne four children, seen one die, been divorced, seen her son kidnapped by his father (the son too was to die the next year), had affairs with Papini and Marinetti—all these things wound up somewhere, embarrassingly, in her verse—and for all one knows Duchamp and Carlos Williams as well, married again, and suffered the loss of this second husband in one of the more spectacular "mysterious disappearances" of this century. For decades what reputation she retained was due as much as anything to this disappearance, perceived typically as in the soap-opera sentimentality of William Carlos Williams' Autobiography:
Later Mina married Cravan and went to Central America with him where he bought and rebuilt a seagoing craft of some sort. One evening, having triumphantly finished the job, he got into it to try it out in the bay before supper. He never returned. Pregnant on the shore, she watched the small ship move steadily away into the distance. For years she thought to see him again—that was, how long ago? What? Thirty-five years. He was reputed to be a son of Oscar Wilde and had been a capable boxer and boxed in fact with Jack Johnson once in Spain.
Tableau! and not even true, save in the broadest possible outline,
The pace was never too brisk: no one ever complained of having to stop and explain things for Mina; she could take it as fast as Picabia could throw it, and that was awesomely fast. Why then does it add up to so little?
Granted, she refused in later years to be called poet. = That this refusal might have expressed a perception more profound than a simple Duchamp-style abnegation—that is, that her stuff had always been something other than poesy in the usual acceptance of that word—is one of the possibilities. But the abnegation too is a fact: like Duchamp's it involved an abstention not from work, but from exposing or pushing the work once done. (In part this reflects merely the falling away of those who had once thumped the tub on her behalf.)
She was uneven, not as others are from poem to poem, but rather from line to line. I think she never decided how seriously to take the enterprise at hand. She wrote, famously:
Spawn of fantasies
Sifting the appraisable
Pig Cupid his rosy snout
Rooting erotic garbage
in the series of 'Love Songs' which, with 'The Effectual Marriage,' will last as well as any of her work; and the continuing freshness, the outrageous effectiveness, of those four lines are a major part of that which brings us back to her again and again, in the attempt to decide what the devil to make of her. And it was no early trick early outgrown either: as a line like "conditional compassion" in the mostly mawkish 'Hot Cross Bum' (1950) will remind us. Or take this brief sampling:
Where each extrudes beyond the tangible
One thin pale trail of speculation
('Human Cylinders,' 1917)
screwed to the mimic-salacious
grotesquerie of a pain
larger than her intellect
A clotty bulk of bifurcate fat
out of her loins
for a period while performing hands
pour lactoid liquids through
and then mop up beneath it
their golden residue
('Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose,' 1923–25)
'Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose' (my candidate for most disgusting title of the century, right up there with Bob McAlmon's Being Geniuses together) will show us most clearly how rooted her merits were in those of good prose: the movement of such a passage as this:
on leaves of novels
where anatomical man
has no notion
of offering other than the bended knee
passes in pleasant ways
as the cows graze
is exactly that of cut and compressed prose, with the added definition and balance of emphasis which prosodic means afford. (Look, for instance, at the almost imperceptible end-rhymes, "knee/feminity," "ways/graze," and at the way the line-divisions force the voice to dwell on the lines before and after "of offering other than the bended knee" to make them come out even, and at the interlacing of Latinate and common dictions, to divert the reader who has not noticed that she is calling her mother a caterpillar and a cow.) = Pound used to speak of 'The Hard and Soft in French Poetry': Mina's is "hard" always, within Pound's meaning, when it is worth reading at all.
But what are we to make of such a passage? And it is typical of the whole sequence, which, oddly Vorticist dislocations and all, seems even less than the rest of her work a thing susceptible of detachment from her biography. Look how she goes on:
For in those days
when Exodus courted the rose
literature was supposed to elevate us
So the maid with puffy
bosom where Jerusalem
dreams to ease
his head of calculations
in the Zero of ecstasy
and a little huffy
bristles with chastity
—All she was doing was getting back of Mommy again ! and again with impeccable technique—"huffy/puffy," and the pattern of s and k and r sounds in the line "when Exodus courted the rose," for example.
I said "Vorticist." The best definition is probably still to be found in Hugh Kenner's Wyndham Lewis (New Directions 1954): ". . . each sentence joins words by fiat, and the compound, though one cannot tell by what process it was arrived at, asserts as undeniably as a troop of Martians its right to corporate existence.... It is a style composed of phrases, not actions.... Of course, there is no reason why there should not be a few more such phrases . . . or for that matter why a few of them should not be omitted, except that they seem, once achieved, too good to scrap." = She is often like that: she too tends to line her victim up against a wall and spray phrases at him.
(Mina's connection with the Vorticists seems to have gone altogether undocumented, although there exist such traces in her work as a gracefully uncomprehending poem about Lewis' drawing 'The Starry Sky,' and it seems unlikely that they passed the years without ever meeting, given her extravagant physical beauty, his equally extravagant turn for womanizing, and their long list of shared acquaintances.)
Thus we return to biography! I think it must be her fault: at the best of times her work exists rather to serve Mina Loy's personal interests than for any other reason; she characteristically amasses the most brilliant details imaginable for purposes no nobler or more durable than revenge; when we are not, at least provisionally, interested in the welfare of Mina Loy there is little to attract us in her work. When we encounter the title 'The Widow's Jazz' there is never a question who the "Widow" may be. And when we read:
Raminetti gets short sentences
for obstructing public thoroughfares
Bapini is popular in "Vanity Fair"
as for Imna Oly
I agree with Mrs. Krar Standing Hail—
she is not quite a lady
('Lion's Jaws,' 1910–1915)
—what we feel is the embarrassment of the Peeping Tom, not the presence of a created object. (The slurring of the names may be her token gesture, in the midst of all this failed invective and malicious gossip, toward the poet's supposed obligation to make something.)
There is one reason for her long neglect, for she came along in the age of Mr. Eliot's "objectivity," when it was not quite proper for an artist even to have a biography, let alone speak of it; and to top all, she ran with the "rough-necks" always, and suffered the pigeon-holing that entails. And there may have been some penalty exacted, over the long haul, for being a woman, although in the decade of her greatest visibility that could not have been any kind of handicap. After all, nobody ever had much trouble taking Marianne Moore seriously; or HD, or the redoubtable "Trudy" Stein, for the matter of that, or Djuna ("who wrote rather like a baboon-a") Barnes. The Baronin Elsa v. FreytagLoringhoven, on the other hand....
And her, Mina Loy's, characteristic response to label-pasters and pigeon-holers was evasion. This helped force her, in the end, to silence and exile, if not to cunning. Pound wrote in Instigations:
Mina Loy has been equally subject to something like international influence; there are lines in her "Ineffectual Marriage" perhaps better written than anything I have found in Miss Moore.... In the verse of Marianne Moore I detect traces of emotion; in that of Mina Loy I detect no emotion whatever.... "Take the world if thou wilt but leave me an asylum for my affection" is not their lamentation, but rather "In the midst of this desolation, give me at least one intelligence to converse with." . . .
—and she said nothing at all, though this was the first and greatest of the mistakes: one might have thought EP could see how silly were his remarks about "detecting no emotion" when he quoted from the cited poem the following:
So here we might dispense with her
Gina being a female
But she was more than that
Being an incipience a correlative
an instigation to the reaction of man
From the palpable to the transcendent
Mollescent irritant of his fantasy
Gina had her use being useful
She flowered in Empyrean
From which no well-mated woman ever returns
and so forth, a passage almost impossible to read aloud in a level voice, a passage encapsulating more emotion in its bombast than one might have thought that kind of English capable of harbouring. ("Gina," I suppose, is Mina—although for once we need not remember that.)
But she caused him to expand his definition of poesy, to include the category logopoeia, and that is something. And it must now be plain to everyone where he got the cadences which come off so beautifully toward the end of Mauberley, for example:
A consciousness disjunct,
Being but this blotted
(Personae, p. 203)
And then John Rodker—talk of the forgotten!—John Rodker, author of Adolphe 1920 and model for Julius Ratner, in Lewis' Apes of God—John Rodker followed Pound's lead, I must not say mindlessly (The Little Review, Vol. V., No. 7, November 1918, page 31):
Her visualization is original, often brillant, but head-work is cold comfort and her capacity for feeling is rather a cold indignation of the sort that finds expression in tags like 'Honesty is the best policy.'
—this on the way to finding her preferable in any case to Marianne Moore (of the latter, "Her brain must be large and particularly spongy. Her pyramids contain no Pharaohs: eviscerated kittens rather"). So that, by the time of the Little Review Anthology (1953), the cliché had become fixed in concrete and Margaret Anderson could simply leave Loy out, shouting "INTELLECTUAL POETRY IS NOT POETRY" (her capitals), to confirm Mina's intuition that she had nothing to hope from the vortices either of power or of Kulchur.
In retrospect, I suppose it is easy to see how the misunderstanding started. No doubt she did seem wantonly cerebral in the pages of Others, among the Skipwith Cannélls and Orrick Johns's with whom that journal tended to fill its pages; and a label affixed is seldom re-examined, no matter how far out of date it may have fallen. After the publication of Pound's Mauberley her cerebrality must have seemed remarkably small potatoes, to the dispassionate observer, but the damage had been done.
Always there have been those who remembered. Kenneth Rexroth among the first ('Les Lauriers Sont Coupés,' 1944: "There is no question but Mina Loy is important and should be reprinted. No one competent and familiar with verse in English in this century would dream of denying it. . . ."), and Jonathan Williams among the most faithful (publisher of Lunar Baedeker & Time-Tables, 1958, and the present book too), have persistently, or fitfully, reminded the world that a remarkable talent was wasting away unread—but it was rowing up-stream, all of it. Now at last their labours have paid off, in the publication of as handsome a book as has appeared in the last five years, The Last Lunar Baedeker, where all her verse, or as near it as makes no difference, is preserved. Roger Conover has wrought superhumanly, that must be prefixed to all else we say.
But he has not made it any easier to see what this pile of prose and verse (she wrote, it seems, rather a lot of prose, none of it very interesting) amounts to, for the editorial labour begins where he has left off, with the hard work of finding dates, of correlating versions, and of reading proofs for accuracy. And he inspires no trust in his own evaluations when we read from his hand such crimes against the English language as:
I have dwelled at length on Arthur Cravan....
M.L. adopts Christian Science, remains a devoted
the rest of her life.
... illuminary devices....
. . . she largely succeeded . . . to live an unpublic existence....
Although one detects . . . an abiding sanctity toward the Uprooted and Fugitive . . . her philosophical attraction to immunity from secular conditions now becomes lived.
Readers interested in the more recent conveyance of Loy's work . . .
Something must be said of punctuation as well. = In that time long past when I went to school we were taught to distinguish the titles of essays, stories, poems—all, in short, that is less than or part of a book—with inverted commas, and things said with quotation marks. It was an easy and commodious rule, a standard by which one could scan a page and instantly pick out and discriminate things said from things named. = In my isolation I had not known how far the M.L.A. convention in these matters (thoughtlessly adopted, but not the less rigidly imposed for that)—that convention which insists there is no difference, that all things must lie between double quotes if between any at all—had permeated American publishing. It is a stupid convention, a wholesale abdication in favour of upsurging illiteracy, and it impoverishes all who must endure it. It is as though a gang of spelling-cranks—not but what Noah Webster was bad enough!—had seized all the presses. (But of course they have! try to write "labour" or "centre" in an American publication.)
To be sure, the rule of my youth, like any other, was liable to abuse—but look what an indigestible mélange the M.L.A. convention has made, for instance, of the later works of Kenneth Burke, half the sign-posts gone or all turned the same way!
Just such a mélange greets us here: all quotes are double quotes, with the result that no page of the Notes can be read with confidence, but must instead be crawled through, puzzled through. = A publisher of Jonathan Williams' stature, one whose entire career after all has lain athwart the "mainstream," need never have subjected himself to such constraints, and us to such discomfort.
There is one thing more: since the appearance of Ulysses, writers of a certain class have sought to impart a spuriously streamlined look to their pages by omitting the hyphen in compound words. Typographers have followed the fad in recent years, and there seems now to be a real danger that this too will come to be imposed on all who seek print, with real harm to matter which ought to be read at a slower pace. (Pound's trick of refusing to join compounds with any sort of glue—as in "and some one has wiped out most of Lucilius," where anyone else at all would have written "someone"—to the rescue! or, more generally, let authors not snooze, let them shout, and kick, and wave the list, when correcting proofs.) = I am not persuaded our editor has been scrupulous on this point either, given my impression that Mina Loy by inveterate habit spaced out even the individual syllables of the words she employed.
But the text is, more or less, preserved at last. Others have not been so fortunate: And some one has wiped out most of . . . let us say Naevius, another dam'd uncomfortable case, of whom but one work survives intact, his epitaph—and that in the prettied-up form Gellius gives.
There can be no further danger of that here—Rexroth and our present publisher and editor, among others, have raised her text above the risk of loss, at least—but the long hiatus remains, and like Willie Blake and the author of The Cantos, she has been denied the "continuum of understanding, early commenced," in Hugh Kenner's words, by which "something was immediately made of both Ulysses and The Waste Land, and [from which] our comfort with both works after 50 years, including our ease at allowing for their age, seems derivable" (The Pound Era). That is part of what makes it so difficult to triangulate her properly.
Nevertheless, with the whole record before us, we must get around to deciding whether that long neglect might have been deserved: whether her true place was where the conventional histories have placed her, as an exceedingly decorative figure in the margin. Certain of her lines and images will never, I think, be forgotten, but the question is whether her oeuvre as a whole is not somewhat less than its best parts would suggest.
I am left in an awkward spot: I welcomed the chance to review this book, feeling that at last it might be possible to say either: "Look what a magnificent poet you clods have overlooked" or the opposite—and I can not. In the attempt to break the dead-lock I have tried all sorts of expedients: subjected the text, for instance, to a sort of sortes Virgilianae, opening the book at random. The results of that experiment are too inconclusive to describe here.
And I have left months to pass and then gone back to the text, only to find that the current impression varies inversely with the previous one: if I found something particularly noteworthy before, I can be certain that nothing but sprawling angularity and covert spite meets me this time.
So for her whole collected work: you can count on nothing at all.
Source: Reno Odlin, "Her Eclipse Endur'd," in Antigonish Review, Autumn 1984, pp. 53–63.
Bronstein, Hilda, " 'Intermittent—Unfinishing': Mina Loy and the Elusive Text as Resistance," in the online journal How2, Vol. 1, No. 5, Rutgers University Press, March 2001, accessed at http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/however/v1_5_2001/current/in-conference/mina-loy/bronstein.html
Boccioni, Umberto, "The Twentieth Century: Umberto Boccioni," in Artists on Art: From the XIV to the XX Century, edited by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves, Pantheon Books, 1945, p. 435.
De La Croix, Horst, Richard G. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick, eds., "Art with Psychological and Conceptual Concerns," in Art through the Ages, Ninth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991, p. 974.
Kreymborg, Alfred, "Originals and Eccentrics," in Our Singing Strength: An Outline of American Poetry, 1620–1930, Coward McCann, 1929, pp. 488–90.
Loy, Mina, The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy, edited by Roger L. Conover, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1996, pp. xviii–xix, 153–54, 146, 174.
Mahaffey, Vicki, "Modernist Theory and Criticism," in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, p. 512.
Pound, Ezra, "A List of Books: 'Others,' " in Little Review, Vol. IV, No. 11, March 1918, pp. 56–58.
Winters, Yvor, "Mina Loy," in Yvor Winters: Uncollected Essays and Reviews, edited by Francis Murphy, Swallow Press, 1973, pp. 27–31; originally published in The Dial, Vol. LXXX, No. 6, June 1926.
Burke, Carolyn, Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy, University of California Press, 1996.
In this comprehensive biography of Loy's life, Carolyn Burke traces the artist's life from her birth in 1882 in London to her death in Aspen, Colorado, in 1966.
Kouidis, Virginia, Mina Loy: American Modernist Poet, Louisiana State University Press, 1980.
Another biographical resource, Koudis's work is the first book to be published about Loy's life and poetry.
Loy, Mina, Mina Loy Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Yale University.
Loy's original papers include her published and unpublished writing, drawings, designs, copyright inventions, and correspondence spanning from 1914 to 1960. The papers include six unpublished autobiographical novels.
Schreiber, Maeera, and Keith Tuma, Mina Loy: Woman and Poet, National Poetry Foundation, 1998.
In addition to offering a collection of critical essays about Loy's work, this resource includes a previously unpublished interview with Loy, biographical information, as well as an annotated bibliography of other works about Loy.