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Mina Loy

Born in 1882 London, Mina Loy was the respected contemporary of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams. Although admired by her peers, she received little recognition until after her death. She is best known for her poetry collections and her Feminist Manifesto.

Blurbs

"Mina Loy has finally been admitted into 'the company of poets,' the canon. As if she cared."

– Thom Gunn, Times Literary Supplement

"[Mina Loy] may now be launched on a posthumous career as the electric-age Blake."

– Hugh Kenner, Washington Times

"At one time it was common to couple the names of Mina Loy and Marianne Moore. Pound treated them as equals, said they both wrote something called logopoeia. There is no question that Mina Loy is important."

– Kenneth Rexroth

“Among the great modernist poets, Mina Loy was surely the greatest wit, the most sophisticated commentator on the vagaries of love, the one whose brittle and sardonic laughter continues . . . to pursue us.”

– Marjorie Perloff

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Featured Book

Stories and Essays of Mina Loy

“The false wall resounded with arpeggios of curses and shrieked bitches.”

01/30/12

Rediscovery is an odd compliment. When somebody says, “Dalkey Archive Press has rediscovered a forgotten Modernist with their new release Stories and Essays of Mina Loy”, what they’re really saying is that Mina Loy was forgotten for many years, but now a dedicated team of literary detectives has unearthed her from obscurity. This sounds good and adds some life to an important book, but Loy was never forgotten. There has never been a time since 1920 that groups, however small, haven’t flocked to Loy for sustenance. But we like to feel like we’re doing Loy a solid, so the bookish world pats itself on the back by proclaiming we’ve found treasure. So. . . .

Dalkey Archive Press has rediscovered a forgotten Modernist with their new release Stories and Essays of Mina Loy. Never before published in this form, this collection of narrative work contains fiction, theatre, and critical essays that range from meditations on Gertrude Stein, fairy tales, tawdry interludes, early 20th century feminist thought, and a ballet. Loy is known primarily as a poet, Lunar Baedecker is and will be her most read work, but with this collection we can see that she was an incredibly diverse and prolific writer. A writer’s writer, she is not to be taken lightly. A pure High Modernist, Loy’s writing, although colloquial and familiar even to a contemporary reader, is particularly concerned, and interested in itself as Art. By that I mean that trickery abounds.

Her tricks show up as a didactic, pragmatic style that lulls you into a false sense of security, and then the text sucker punches you with an impossibly subtle complexity. Muhammad Ali once said that he could never be knocked out by a punch he could see coming. Faulkner, Auster, or Milton, couldn’t knock out Ali, but Loy would have him down and out in the first round. She’s the punch you don’t see coming.

With over 400 pages and 37 separate pieces, the collection can seem a bit daunting and is difficult to define in anything but the most-broad terms. I’ve provided the broad look above. But books don’t come to me on broad terms, they come to me in sentences. Mina Loy’s sentences are wonderful. In a hilarious and disjointed short story (it’s actually the first piece in the collection) “The Agony of the Partition” Loy writes: “The false wall resounded with arpeggios of curses and shrieked bitches.” Has there ever been a more wonderful sentence? I say, no. Well, maybe, but today it’s my favorite. This mixture of High (arpeggios) and Low (false wall) creates a natural friction that could only be described as “shrieked bitches.” Everything that Modernism set out to be, Loy accomplishes in this one sentence. Even after considering the failures of so much early twentieth century literature, we can still point to a couple truths and say Pound was a grand teacher, Stein a deft guide, Joyce was the bold mistake that changed everything, and Eliot was the talent, but this most wonderful sentence came from Mina Loy, and it shows why she belongs, too.

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2 Comments

  1. Brad Johnson said on 01/31/12 at 6:54 pm Reply

    The opening fragments of in that book, as is the mesmerizing character study “Gloria Gammage.” I couldn’t stop reading it, over and over, when I first came across the book. Great collection. Led me back, w/ much joy, to her poetry, which I’ve been reading closely the past three weeks.

    Reply

    Brad Johnson said on 01/31/12 at 6:55 pm

    I must have overly edited that opening line. Should read: “The opening fragments of a story that you cite in that book are amazing, as is the mesmerizing . . .”

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