Born in England, Loy studied art in Germany, France, and Britain and continued to paint thereafter. She moved to Florence and became deeply involved with the futurist movement, though she gave its politics and cultural ambitions a feminist inflection, as her 1919 "Aphorisms on Futurism" suggests. Eventually she abandoned the movement as its patriarchal bias evolved into an emergent sympathy for fascism. Although she did not move permanently to the United States until 1936—first living in New York and then in Aspen, Colorado—and take up U.S. citizenship until late in her life, her work is often considered part of American modernism because some of her most important work was written while she was here for several years in the second decade of the century and because it was often American journals that published and championed her poetry.
In her "Feminist Manifesto," unpublished but probably written shortly before the 1915-1917 "Songs to Joannes," Loy argues that "woman must destroy in herself the desire to be loved" and urges that "honor, grief, sentimentality, pride and consequently jealousy must be detached from sex." The "Songs" accomplish that and more. Loy concludes that all the values embedded in masculinity and femininity are perilous and destructive. Published in the American journal Others, "Songs to Joannes" is a major contribution to experimental modernism. Readers interested in Loy should be sure to consult The Lost Lunar Baedeker (1996), which is the only accurate edition of her poems.