Amy Lowell’s poem “Patterns” is first on Poetry Guide Bob Holman’s list of poems everyone should know, he says, because it “revealed to me poetry’s fulfilling subversion. A woman wanders her patterned flower garden holding a letter, the letter that holds the news that her beau has just been killed in the war—‘Christ! What are patterns for!’ is the refrain. It was that ‘Christ’ appearing in a high school textbook in Bible Belt, Ohio, that was so radical. Later I would discover other radical moves of Ms. Lowell’s: interlocking prose and poetry in a single piece, e.g., a mode she called ‘polyphonic prose.’ Her life, too, in many ways outGertruded Ms. Stein, albeit from a Boston Brahmin locale. And her great battles with Ezra Pound, who branded her version of Imagism, ‘Amygism’....“
She was a formidable, independent, independently wealthy and eccentric woman, the epitome of an oddball modernist poet. She wrote more than 650 poems, published several collections of critical essays evaluating her poetic contemporaries and forebears and a massive biography of John Keats, and edited three volumes of Imagist poets, but she was considered a minor poet and her work was largely forgotten after her death—until the women’s movement in the 1970s brought her poems back into the light.
In 2001, Holman heard Joan Joffe Hall read her Amy Lowell poem, reimagining the moment of Lowell’s sudden death at home at 51 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and was prompted to exclaim “Here’s the news in poetry: an overlooked minor poet leaps from the page to remind us what it’s all about.” Since then, we’ve been steadily adding Amy Lowell’s poems to our collections here at About.com Poetry, with more to come soon: