Louise Bogan

1897-1970

 

 


Louise Marie Bogan was born on August Eleventh, in 1897 to Daniel Joseph and May Murphy Shields Bogan, in Livermore Falls, Maine. Her family moved to Milton, New Hampshire, where her mother and father had battles, both physical and verbal. Her bother was bored with her husband, and took Bogan along as she went to meet her secret lovers. In 1904, the Bogans moved to Ballardvale, Massachusetts. Louise Bogan was sent to a convent school in 1906, and spent most of the nest year traveling across the country with a woman friend and a lover. Her family moved to Boston in 1909, and she enrolled in Girls' Latin School, a school for girls to get a classical education. By age fourteen, she had written her first poetry, and had a thick pile of manuscript by age 18. Early poems were published in the school's literary journal. In 1916, she married Curt Alexander, an army officer. His officer duties brought him to Panama, where Bogan followed. She commented on their relationship as saying that "all we had in common was sex." In 1919, they moved back to America, and lived with her daughter, Mathilde, called Maidie . Living in New York, she began to establish literary contacts in New York. She sent her daughter to Farley, Massachusetts to live with her parents, and in 1920, her husband died of pneumonia.

She met William Carlos Williams, Lola Ridge, Malcolm Cowley, Mina Loy, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Conrad Aiken, Edmund Wilson, and Rolfe Humphries soon after moving to New York. In 1920, Poetry accepted five of her poems, and by year's end she was having much of her poetry published. Body of This Death, her first book of poems, was published in 1923. In 1924, her first review was published in the New Republic.

Louise Bogan fell in love with Raymond Holden, and married him in 1925. The Dark Summer, her second book , was published in 1929. After Christmas 1929, her house burned down, and she lost all of her work in progress. Afterwards, her husband became managing editor of the New Yorker. She began writing review for the magazine in 1931, titled "The Season's Verse" twice a year, for thirty-eight years. In 1930, she was hospitalized for mental reasons. In 1933, she traveled Europe on a Guggenheim grant. The trip devastated her mentally, and she hospitalized herself in 1935. Her and Holden separated in 1937.

Louise Bogan became close to Wilson in 1935, and had an affair with Roethke, which inspired poems for her. Her mother died in 1936, and shortly thereafter, The Sleeping Fury was published. In 1941, she published Poems and New Poems, and only three poems in the next thirteen years.

Bogan's honors include election as a fellow in American letters of the Library of Congress (1044), consultant on poetry for a year (1945), Doubleday consultant on belles-lettres (1946-'47), a judge for Guggenheim poetry fellowships, lectured at universities, won the Harriet Monroe Award in 1948, the Bollingen Prize in 1955, Senior Creative Arts Award in 1962, and election to American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1969. In 1969, she resigned as reviewer for the New Yorker. Louise Bogan died of a coronary occlusion on February fourth, 1970.


 Louise Bogan's poetry is modernist, with many ambiguities, and also consists of several feminine devices, as well as none at all, along with a great deal of paradoxical relationships, and has more emphasis on emphasis than on a strict rhythm pattern, among many other things to make her one of the finest modern American poets, whether male or female.


The poems of Bogan, specifically "Women", is quite ambiguous. In "Women," there is much ambiguity of who is speaking. The Woman's shortcomings, the "content in the tight hot cell of their hearts," or that "they do not see cattle cropping red winter grass," or "they cannot think of so many crops to a field," are contradicted by the fact that a woman had indeed written the poem, and, according to Janet Gray, "Is this an ironic, nonfemale mask, and can we really say whether Bogan the woman owned these opinions?" and "in spite of the impossibility of a point of view, a poem is made." Even Theodore Roethke says that Bogan's poetry escapes flaws of women's poetry such as "the spinning-out' the embroidering of trivial themes;...caterwauling; writing the same poem fifty times, and so on."

 

The entire poem "Women" is a large paradox, as stated earlier, because women are said to not be capable of any "wilderness in them," and the such, but in reality, they are very capable, as Ms. Bogan proves. Some lines in the poem are paradoxical, with "They hear in every whisper that speaks to them A shot and a cry."

 

"Women"'s first stanza starts off with all lines with a stressed then an unstressed syllable, with "Women," "They are," "Content," and "To eat." The rest is in iambic form. The first stanza is meant to be stressed, as it outlines what the rest of the poem is about (or actually, how it contradicts itself.)


 

 

The poem "Medusa" has ambiguities as well. There are multiple ways to interpret the poem, from the pre-Renaissance version of Medusa, as the beautiful, irresistible female, or as the hideous, evil Gorgon of the post-Renaissance period, a view offered by Jean Clair. The final outcome of the narrator is hard to determine; the only thing that can be derived was that she was turned to stone either by the Medusa of Clair’s version, or by the Medusa which is beautiful beyond belief.

Louise Bogan makes extensive uses of paradoxes in her writings. The flow of time itself in "Medusa" is a paradox. The first two stanzas, have both time and the narration flowing naturally, but in the third stanza, everything stops around the narrator, and all becomes still. But according to Suzanne Clark, the "narration itself does not necessarily stop." Also, words themselves are used as paradoxes to what they are trying to convey. IN the line "Everything moved, - a bell hung ready to strike," the word "strike" is used to mean give or prolong life, instead of end it or harm it, as "strike" is used commonly, or the word "brighten" in the line "The end will never brighten it more than this," because normally, "the end" is thought to be dark and destructive instead of iridescent.

 

Bogan uses spondees in the first stanza of "Medusa" with "Facing," "Everything," "Sun," to make emphasis of words more important than a regular rhythm. The third stanza, with "Nothing," "The end," and "Nor the" are done the same ways. But the final line is the exact opposite, with an unstressed syllable then a stressed syllable, with "Under", "My eyes," and "And does."

 

 

 

Her skill and style, and inspiration made her into the poet she is today, a skilled and excellent modern poet, though she never proclaimed that herself. Her harsh criticism of herself brought about good works, but stifled her creativity at times.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

"On Medusa" May 16, 2001. Http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/bogan/medusa.htm

"On Women" May 16, 2001. http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/bogan/women.htm

Suzanne Clark Sentimental Modernism: Women Writers and The Revolution of the Word. New York. Clark, 1991.

Janet Gray. "Modern American Woman Writers." New York: Scribners, 1991

Louise Bogan. Bookman. New York: (unsure of publisher), 1922

Louise Bogan. Body of This Death. New York: (unsure of publisher), 1923

 

 

Webpage by : Chris Wilson

May 24, 2001

1