December 7, 2008

Mina Loy

Mina Loy [England]

Born in London in 1882, Mina Gertrude Lowy studied art in Munich and in London (where she was taught by Augustus John) before moving to Paris in 1903. In Paris she married Stephen Haweis, and changed her surname to Loy. Her first child, Oda, died on her first birthday.
The same year Loy met Gertrude and Leo Stein, and through Stein's salons, met Apollinaire, Picasso, Rosseau and many others. As her art began to be noticed in Paris, she moved with her husband in 1906 to Florence, during which she suffered from depression and ill-health.
However, Loy continued to produce art and began to flourish under the influence of Mabel Dodge, who have moved to Florence in 1910. In 1913 Loy exhibited paintings in London, and the same year, Stein and Toklas visted Loy in Florence. The same year, Loy's husband sailed to the Fiji Islands, Tahiti, Australia, San Francisco, and New York, and Loy filed for divorce, allying herself with the Italian Futurists.

Over the next few years, despite the declaration of war, and the breaking up of the American/English colony in Florence, Loy remained, having affairs with the Italian Futurist writers F. T. Marinetti and Giovanni Papini. As her writing began to be circulated in the avart-garde circles of New York, Loy grew restless in Italy and began to make plans to go to the United States. Disillusioned with Futurism, she performed anti-Futurist works such as her experimental verse play The Paperers, which exaggerated masculinities. In October of that year, 1916, she sailed, with her two children, for New York.

Loy immediately made a sensation in Greenwich Village and in the avart-garde magazine Others. After she appeared as the wife in Alfred Kreymborg's play Lima Beans (William Carlos Williams was the husband), the New York press "discovered" her. In numerous articles and editorials throughout 1917, Loy was discussed as the paradigm of the modern woman. That same year, she met the Dadaist poet-publisher-pugilist-hoaxer Arthur Cravan; they were married in Mexico City in January 1918. As Loy sailed for Buenos Aires in preparation for their return to Europe, Cravan disappeared, never to be seen again.

Back in Europe Loy began designing lamps and other commercial furniture and returned to the social whirl of Paris literary life. As Robert McAlmon reported about her wit at parties -- and her friendship with Djuna Barnes -- "If only Djuna Barnes or Mina Loy turned up, the evening might be saved." Throughout the next decades Loy worked on her poetic masterwork, Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose.

In 1936 she returned to the United States, forming a lasting friendship with Joseph Cornell and retaining occasional contacts with friends from Europe, including Djuna Barnes, Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Kreymborg, Henry Miller, Man Ray and Mary Reynolds. In 1944 she became a naturalized citizen. She died in September 1966 in Aspen, Colorado.


Lunar Baedeker (Paris: Contact Publishing Company, 1923); selections from "Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose" in Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers (Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1925); Lunar Baedeker and Time-Tables (Highlands, North Carolina: Jonathan Williams Publisher [Jargon 23], 1958); The Last Lunar Baedeker, edited by Roger L. Conover (Highlands, North Carolina: The Jargon Society, 1982); The Lost Lunar Baedeker, selected and edited by Roger L. Conover (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996

Lunar Baedeker

A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies

Peris is livery
or posthumous parvenues

Delicious Avenues
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah's tombstones

to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous— — —

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

— — — Stellectric signs
"Wing shows on Starway"
"Zodiac carrousel"

of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And "Immortality"
mildews. . .
in the museums of the moon

"Nocturnal cyclops"
"Crystal concubine"
— — — — — — —
Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes— — — —

Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots

Latin Borghese

Houses hold virgins
The doors on the chain

"Plumb streets with hearts"
"Bore curtains with eyes"

Virgins without dots
Stare beyond probability

See the men pass
Their hats are not ours
We take a walk
They are going somewhere
And they may look everywhere
Men's eyes look into things
Our eyes look out

A great deal of ourselves
We offer to the mirror
Something less to the confessional
The rest to Time
There is so much Time
Everything is full of it
Such a long time

Virgins may whisper
"Transparent nightdresses made all of lace"
Virgins may squeak
"My dear I should faint"
...."And then the man---"
Wasting our giggles
For we have no dots

We have been taught
Love is a god
White with soft wings
Nobody shouts
Virgins for sale
Yet where are our coins
For buying a purchaser
Love is a god
Marriage expensive
A secret well kept
Makes the noise of the world
Nature's arms spread wide
Making room for us
Room for all of us
Somebody who was never
a virgin
Has bolted the door
Put curtains at our windows
See the men pass
They are going somewhere

Fleshes like weeds
Sprout in the light
So much flesh in the world
Wanders at will

Some behind curtains
Throbs to the night
Bait to the stars
Spread it with gold
And you carry it home
Against your shirt front
To a shaded light
With the door locked
Against virgins who
Might scratch

Gertrude Stein

of the laboratory
of vocabulary
she crushed
the tonnage
of consciousness
congealed to phrases
to extract
a radium of the word

I Almost Saw God in the Metro

In that state of animated coma
the condition of clochard
this gray-head slumped on a platform bench
like the Emperor of Void
on a throne to which no one pretends
is wrapped in aloofness august
as deity--
an inordinate flower
opening undefiled
among ordure.

Ceiling at Dawn

Afloat in oval of unclosing eye

white-washed shadow-drifts
of indoor dawn
film idle clouds--

a Cinema-Nirvana
pallid ideograms
and epitaphs of dreams

upon a white slab slanted.

Visual echoes
in blanched rows

--the dissolved, derouted
traffic of slumber--

an acrid air-flower
adrowse in the etiolate pasture
of our arousing

as droning day
in early light
the spectral acre

under the sunless artiface
of this four-cornered sky,

lingering flies
convolve their slim-winged circles


"I Almost Saw God in the Metro," and "Ceiling at Dawn"
Reprinted from The Last Lunar Baedeker, edited and introduced by Roger L. Conover (Highlands, North Carolina: The Jargon Society, 1982). Copyright ©1982 by The Jargon Society. Reprinted by permission of Roger L. Conover.

"Lunar Baedeker," "Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots," and "Gertrude Stein"
Reprinted from The Lost Lunar Baedeker, selected and edited by Roger L. Conover. Copyright ©1996 by the Estate of Mina Loy. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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