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)27 December 1882
London, England
Died 25 September 1966(1966-09-25) (aged 83)
Aspen, Colorado
Occupation Writer: poet, playwright, novelist; actress, designer
Movement Modernism, futurism

Mina Loy, born Mina Gertrude Löwry (27 December 1882 – 25 September 1966), was a British artist, writer: poet, playwright, novelist, futurist, actress, Christian Scientist, feminist, model, nurse, 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.

Personal life[edit]

Loy was born in London. In 1899 she changed her name from Mina Gertrude Lowry to Mina Loy. Loy was married twice. On 31 December 1903, she married Stephen Haweis. Their marriage ended in 1913. She married Arthur Cravan in Mexico City in 1918. Not long after their marriage, Cravan disappeared. His body was found later in the desert.[1] She had four children; three by her first husband, Haweis; and one by her second husband, Craven. Her children by Haweis were: Oda Janet Haweis (1903 - 1904), Joella Synara Haweis Levy Bayer (1907 - ) and John Giles Stephen Musgrove Haweis (1909 -1923). Her only child with Craven was called Jemima Fabienne Cravan Benedict (1919 - ).

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 realised they needed to leave Mexico. A few months later, Cravan set sail for Buenos Aires in a small yacht and disappeared without a trace. 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]

Writing[edit]

Loy's poetry was published in several magazines before being published in book-form. Some of the magazines that she was featured in include: Camera Work, Trend and Rogue. Loy had two volumes of her poetry published in her lifetime: The Lunar Baedeker (1923) and The Lunar Baedeker & time-tables (1958). Posthumously, two updated volumes of her poetry were released, The Last Lunar Baedeker (1985) and The Lost Lunar Baedeker (1997), both edited by Roger L. Conover. She also wrote two screenplays: The Sacred Prostitute (1914) and Parturition (1914). She wrote a novel, Insel, which was also published posthumously, in 1991.

Feminist Manifesto[edit]

In 1914, while living in an expatriate community in Florence, Italy, Loy wrote the Feminist Manifesto, for which she is perhaps best known today. The manifesto begins with a direct call on women:

"The feminist movement as at present instituted is Inadequate. Women if you want to realize yourselves-you are on the eve of a devastating psychological upheaval-all your pet illusions must be unmasked—the lies of centuries have got to go—are you prepared for the Wrench—? There is no half-measure—NO scratching on the surface of the rubbish heap of tradition, will bring about Reform, the only method is Absolute Demolition. Cease to place your confidence in economic legislation, vice-crusades & uniform education-you are glossing over Reality. Professional & commercial careers are opening up for you—Is that all you want ?"

A galvanising polemic against the subordinate position of women in society, the short text remained unpublished in Loy's lifetime.

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 1916 she moved to New York. While in New York, she worked in a lamp-shade studio, as well as acting in the Provincetown Theater. Here she returned to her old Greenwich Village life, perusing theatre 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. Her first volume of poetry, Lunar Baedecker was published this year. Despite doing well in her literary career, she continued to provide for her family through the manufacture and design of lampshades, which she was creating for the shop that she opened with financial backing from Peggy Guggenheim. Loy also 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 fictionalises 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 naturalised 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 Jemima 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, from pneumonia, at the age of 83, in Aspen.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rainey, Lawrence (2005). Modernism: An Anthology. Malden, MA, United States of America: Blackwell Publishing. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-631-20448-0. 
  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, 14–25 April 1959. New York: Bodley Gallery, 1959. OCLC 11251843. [Solo exhibition catalogue with commentary.]
  • Lusty, Natalya. "'Sexing the Manifesto: Mina Loy, Feminism and Futurism'",Women: A Cultural Review, 19:3, pp245-260. 2008.
  • 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]