Mina Loy

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Not to be confused with Myrna Loy.
Mina Loy
Mina Loy - 1917.gif
Mina Loy in 1917
Born Mina Gertrude Löwry
(1882-12-27)December 27, 1882
London, England
Died September 25, 1966(1966-09-25) (aged 83)
Aspen, Colorado
Occupation Poet, playwright, novelist, actress, designer
Movement Modernism, futurism

Mina Loy, born Mina Gertrude Löwry (December 27, 1882 – September 25, 1966), was a British artist, poet, playwright, novelist, Futurist, actress, Christian Scientist, designer of lamps, and bohemian. She was one of the last of the first generation modernists to achieve posthumous recognition. Her poetry was admired by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Gertrude Stein, Francis Picabia and Yvor Winters, among others.

Early life[edit]

Mina Loy was born Mina Gertrude Löwry in London, England. Her mother Julia Bryan was English, and her father Sigmund Löwry was a Hungarian Jew. Upon leaving school at age seventeen, she moved to Munich and studied painting for two years. When she returned to London, she continued to study painting, once having Augustus John as a teacher. During her studies, she became familiar with the latest advanced theories in Europe, such as that of Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, and Sigmund Freud, as well as teachings of the East. She moved to Paris with Stephen Haweis, who studied with her at the Académie Colarossi. The couple married in 1903. Loy is first cited using her new last name in 1904, when she exhibited six watercolour paintings at the Salon d'Automne in Paris. Loy and Haweis had their first child, Oda, in 1904. Oda died on her first birthday.

Loy soon became a regular in the artistic community at Gertrude and Leo Stein's salon, where she met many of the leading avant-garde artists and writers of the day. Loy would meet the likes of Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau. During her three years in Paris, she, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes would develop lifelong friendships.

In 1907, Loy and Haweis moved to Florence, where they lived more or less separate lives, becoming estranged. Despite drifting apart, they had two more children: Joella in 1907 and Giles in 1909. It was during this time that Loy became part of the Futurists community, having a sexual relationship with their leader Filippo Marinetti. While attending gatherings held at Mabel Dodge's Medici villa, she also networked with expatriates from Manhattan. Among this group were journalist and communist John Reed, as well as novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten, who would eventually become Loy's agent. During World War I, Loy would serve in an army hospital.

Poetry and work[edit]

Loy's extremely original poems started to frequent smaller magazines such as Rogue, attracting the attention of the New York avant-garde. Once her work started to gain momentum, she began to publish poems and articles in more significant New York publications. In 1914, "Aphorisms on Futurism" was published in Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work. "Parturition", her graphic depiction of childbirth, was printed in Trend.

In July 1915, Loy began to write what would be later known as "Songs to Joannes" [1] "(originally "Love songs"), a collection of modernist, avant-garde love poetry about her disenchantment with Giovanni Papini, another founding Futurist with whom Loy had been in a romantic relationship in Florence. First readers of "Songs to Joannes" were shocked by Loy's forward expressions of sexuality, particularly the grotesque and uncensored depictions of erotic desire and bodily functions.

In 1914, Loy penned her polemical Feminist Manifesto, at least partly in response to the misogyny of Futurism's founder, F. T. Marinetti.

Loy and Arthur Cravan[edit]

Consider Your Grandmother's Stays, a 1916 drawing by Mina Loy

Disillusioned with the macho elements in Futurism and its move towards Fascism, as well as desiring a divorce from her husband Stephen Haweis, Loy left her children with a nurse and moved to New York in 1916, where she began acting with the Provincetown Players. She was a key figure in the group that formed around Others magazine, which also included Man Ray, William Carlos Williams, Marcel Duchamp, and Marianne Moore. She also became a Christian Scientist during this time. Loy soon became a leading member of the Greenwich Village bohemian circuit. She also met the 'poet-boxer' Arthur Cravan, self-styled Dadaist and fugitive from conscription. Cravan fled to Mexico to avoid the draft; when Loy's divorce was final she followed him, and they married in Mexico City. Here, they lived in poverty, and years later, Loy would write of their destitution.

Once Loy became pregnant, the couple realized they needed to leave Mexico. A few months later, Cravan set sail for Buenos Aires in a small yacht as Loy watched from the beach. He sailed over the horizon, disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again. The tale of his disappearance is strongly anecdotal, as recounted by Loy's biographer, Carolyn Burke. Their daughter was born April 1919.

In a chapter of her memoir entitled "Colossus", Loy writes about her relationship with Cravan, who was introduced to her as "the prizefighter who writes poetry."[2] Irene Gammel argues that their relationship was "located at the heart of avant-garde activities [which included boxing and poetry]."[3] Loy draws on the language of boxing throughout her memoir to define the terms of her relationship with Cravan.[4]

Return to Europe and New York[edit]

Loy (center) with Jane Heap and Ezra Pound in Paris, c. 1923

Loy would return to Florence and her other children. However, in 1920 she would set out for New York, hoping to find Cravan, unable to accept his death. Here she returned to her old Greenwich Village life, perusing theater or mixing with her fellow writers. She would mingle and develop friendships with the likes of Ezra Pound, Dadaist Tristan Tzara, and Jane Heap. In 1923, she returned to Paris and, with the backing of Peggy Guggenheim, started a business designing and making lampshades, glass novelties, paper cut-outs and painted flower arrangements. Her first book, Lunar Baedecker was also published that year. She picked up old friendships with Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein. In the early 1930s, while still living in Paris, Loy began writing Insel, a künstlerroman that fictionalizes her friendship with German surrealist painter Richard Oelze, a friendship begun in part because Loy was the Paris agent for her son-in-law Julien Levy's New York gallery. Loy drafted and revised Insel until 1961, when she unsuccessfully sought its publication. The novel was finally published by Black Sparrow Press in 1991, edited by Elizabeth Arnold.[5]

Later life and work[edit]

In 1936, Loy returned to New York and lived for a time with her daughter in Manhattan. She moved to the Bowery, where she became interested in the Bowery bums, writing poems and creating found art collages on them. In 1946, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Her second and last book, Lunar Baedeker & Time Tables, appeared in 1958. She exhibited her found art constructions in New York in 1951 and at the Bodley Gallery in 1959. In 1953, Loy moved to Aspen, Colorado, where her daughters Joella and Fabienne were already living; Joella, who had been married to the art dealer of Surrealism in New York, Julien Levy, next married the Bauhaus artist and typographer Herbert Bayer. In Colorado, Mina Loy continued to write and work on her junk collages up to her death at the age of 83, in Aspen.

Loy also wrote a novel, Insel, which was published posthumously.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Songs to Joannes, by Mina Loy". Minaloy.tripod.com. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  2. ^ Loy cited in Gammel, Irene (2012), "Lacing up the Gloves: Women, Boxing and Modernity." Cultural and Social History 9.3, p. 379.
  3. ^ Gammel 2012, p. 380
  4. ^ Gammel 2012, pp. 379–81
  5. ^ Arnold, Elizabeth (1991). "Afterword." Insel. By Mina Loy. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press. ISBN 978-0-87685-853-0

References[edit]

  • Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.
  • Gammel, Irene. "Lacing up the Gloves: Women, Boxing and Modernity." Cultural and Social History 9.3 (2012): 369-390.
  • Kouidis, Virginia. Mina Loy: American Modernist Poet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1980.
  • Kuenzli, Rudolf. Dada (Themes and Movements). Phaidon Press, 2006. [Includes poetry by Mina and her relationship to several artists.]
  • Loy, Mina. The Lost Lunar Baedeker. Selected and ed. Roger Conover. 1996.
  • –––, and Julien Levy. Constructions, April 14–25, 1959. New York: Bodley Gallery, 1959. OCLC 11251843. [Solo exhibition catalogue with commentary.]
  • Prescott, Tara. "'A Lyric Elixir': The Search for Identity in the Works of Mina Loy." Claremont Colleges, 2010.
  • Shreiber, Maeera, and Keith Tuma, eds. Mina Loy: Woman and Poet. National Poetry Foundation, 1998. [Collection of essays on Mina Loy's poetry, with 1965 interview and bibliography.]
  • Parisi, Joseph. 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women (The greatest poems written in English by women over the past 150 years, memorable masterpieces to read, reread, and enjoy). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008.

External links[edit]