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October 23, 2015

Poetry Friday--Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell as a child, photo courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard and Wikimedia.

Last month, I wrote a haiku sequence using words from an Amy Lowell poem. It led me to take another look at Lowell's poetry, and to reaffirm that Amy Lowell is one of my favorite poets! Here are two reasons that come immediately to mind: 1. She wrote small poems, and even some "hokku." Of course, she wrote long poems, too, but those I do not read (hey, just being honest). 2. She was obsessed with color and ways of describing them (see "Thompson's Lunch Room: Grand Central Station"). In a world full of color, why not take the time to appreciate it?

Three examples:


When night drifts along the streets of the city,
And sifts down between the uneven roofs,
My mind begins to peek and peer.
It plays at ball in odd, blue Chinese gardens,
And shakes wrought dice-cups in Pagan temples
Amid the broken flutings of white pillars.
It dances with purple and yellow crocuses in its hair,
And its feet shine as they flutter over drenched grasses.
How light and laughing my mind is,
When all good folk have put out their bedroom candles,
And the city is still.


Throw the blue ball above the little twigs of the tree-tops,
And cast the yellow ball straight at the buzzing stars.

All our life is a flinging of colored balls
                         to impossible distances.
And in the end what have we?
                         A tired arm--a tip-tilted nose.

Ah! Well! Give me the purple one.
Wouldn’t it be a fine thing if I could make it stick
On top of the Methodist steeple?

September. 1918

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.

Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.

Amy Lowell died in 1925, so most of her work is in the public domain. Check out Open Library to read it online or download as an ebook.

Now it's time to see what Jama's got cooking for the Round-Up at Jama's Alphabet Soup.


  1. I could just read September 1918 over and over! (Your admission about not reading Lowell's long poems made me smile)

  2. Diane, thank your for the set of poems to reflect upon. "Balls" resonants with me because I feel like is uncertain and fragile and I want to fling my thoughts out to the world to beat the odds.
    "All our life is a flinging of colored balls to impossible distances.
    I love that Louis Untermeyer bills Amy as a person with verve as well as verse. September 18 starts off with such a vivid image of a fall day that I think I will quote that in Autumn's Palette Gallery courtesy of you.

  3. Swooning over these poems, especially September, 1918. The balls poem is interesting and surprising in its playfulness.

    1. That's why I like "Balls," it is so damn playful. The photo of Lowell above would lead one to believe that she was a playful person, but most of the other photos I've seen show her as rock solid! Click here.

  4. I can see why Amy Lowell would be one of your favorite poets, Diane! I too fell in love-at-first-read with "September 1918," but also am attracted to the mood she sets in "Solitaire." I'd quite like to spend some time in that mind of hers.

  5. Oh, we're of a similar mind again, Diane - I'm a fan, too, and just made a custom mixed media art piece that I chose a short Amy Lowell poem for. :0) The gift-givers enjoyed it, and I hope the recipient did.
    Great selection here, with such a range of emotion....

    1. Do you have a photo you could share? I'd love to see it!

  6. I like the edge of rebellion I interpret in the line about sticking the ball to the top of the Methodist steeple! I hope the passage of time makes all of our bitter days taste sweet.

    1. What is it about placing things in impossibly high places? Click here to see where two pumpkins end up each year at Plymouth State U.

  7. September 1918. Beautiful.

  8. (twice) Interesting! I was reading a few of her poems this week, too! ...And, truth be told, I prefer short poems! Thanks for the admission, and the chance to read more AL poems. God bless you!