Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems

Loy, Mina. The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems. Ed. Roger L. Conover. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.

Loy's collection covers the majority of her career as a publishing poet, beginning with her poetic output in Europe during the early twentieth-century, continuing on through mid-century when she lived and wrote in the United States. While some of her early work gets bogged down with a heavy reliance on abstraction (e.g. “I am the false quantity/ In the harmony of physiological potentiality”), Loy experiments quite a bit with white space and absence of punctuation. Such techniques, arguably, derived from her affiliation with the Futurist movement. In fact, her essay “Aphorisms on Futurism” states that poets and artists must produce “new forms” that “readjust activity” of readers, so as to disrupt “mental lethargy” (151). Not only do these readjustments occur via punctuation and spacing, but they occur through language play (e.g. “Ho for the blue and read of her” (37)) and surrealist imagery (e.g. “Lepers of the moon/ all magically diseased” (77)). Other aesthetic and poetic considerations that could be considered innovative for her time were the refutation of metrical verse and the “deliberate hijacking [of] Victorian order to subvert the values” considered normative. Loy's writing also develops a particular musicality reliant upon assonance, as when she writes: “The jeering jangling/ jazz/ crashes in silence” (87) and “The absolute act/ of art/ conformed/ to continent sculpture” (79). Not surprisingly, then, she writes in her essay “Modern Poetry” that poetry is “prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea” that constructs itself around “the spontaneous tempo of [a poet's] response to life” (157-8). Much of Loy's writing focuses on the position of women in modern society, and the manner in which they can undermine patriarchal authority through direct confrontation. In her “Feminist Manifesto,” she writes: “No scratching in the surface of the rubbish heap of tradition, will bring about REFORM, the only method is ABSOLUTE DEMOLITION” (153). As such, much of her verse questions traditional notions of the feminine. For example, she dispels the belief in a woman's chaste existence when she writes: “All virgin eyes in the world are made of glass” (17), claiming that the only females who are virgins are, in fact, dolls. Likewise, she writes frankly about sex: “No love or the other thing/ Only the impact of lighted bodies/ Knocking sparks off each other/ In chaos” (59).

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