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Amy Lowell Portrait

Lowell was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, of a family long influential in New England commerce, history, and culture. Her ancestors founded Lowell, Massachusetts; George Washington had appointed one a judge; others founded the Lowell textile mills. But the family lineage also included scholars and educators and the poet James Russell Lowell. Largely self-educated and more than slightly self-assured, she turned to writing poetry seriously in her thirties, publishing her first book in 1912. Inspired by H.D.'s poetry, she took up the imagist banner, editing anthologies and publishing related criticism. All this infuriated Ezra Pound, who thought he owned the movement, but in fact it was Lowell who opened and lengthened the imagist line and helped make it integral to modernist poetry.

Among the poems published here are a group of intensely lyrical love poems written to her longtime companion, Ada Dwyer Russell, but no brief selection can represent Lowell's full range. She excelled at free verse and in the use of traditional forms, in compressed imagistic poems and in longer historical and political narratives. Her massive Collected Poems, regrettably long out of print, includes experiments in numerous other styles as well. See instead the well-edited Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (2002). Lowell’s publications include a biography of John Keats and a series of experiments in "polyphonic prose" that embodied several features of poetic language.

Biographical Criticism