Amy Lowell, Diva Poet
In her reassessment of Amy Lowell as a major figure in the modern American poetry movement, Melissa Bradshaw uses theories of the diva and female celebrity to account for Lowell's extraordinary literary influence in the early twentieth century and her equally extraordinary disappearance from American letters after her death. Recognizing Amy Lowell as a literary diva, Bradshaw shows, accounts for her commitment to her art, her extravagant self-promotion and self-presentation, and her fame, which was of a kind no longer associated with poets. It also explains the devaluation of Lowell's poetry and criticism, since a woman's diva status is always short-lived and the accomplishments of celebrity women are typically dismissed and trivialized. In restoring Lowell to her place within the American poetic renaissance of the nineteen-teens and twenties, Bradshaw also recovers a vibrant moment in popular culture when poetry enjoyed mainstream popularity, audiences packed poetry readings, and readers avidly followed the honors, exploits, and feuds of their favorite poets in the literary columns of daily newspapers. Drawing on a rich array of letters, memoirs, newspapers, and periodicals, but eschewing the biographical interpretations of her poetry that have often characterized criticism on Lowell, Bradshaw gives us an Amy Lowell who could not be further removed from the lonely victim of ill-health and obesity who appears in earlier book-length studies. Amy Lowell as diva poet takes her rightful place as a powerful writer of modernist verse who achieved her personal and professional goals without capitulating to heteronormative ideals of how a woman should act, think, or appear.
Prize: Winner, Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars, 2012. 'I found these readings compelling and lively... Bradshaw’s study makes a strong case for the significance of Lowell’s poems and shows the considerable effect of celebrity writers on the rise of modern poetry in the early twentieth century.' Clio ’This is an excellent book which is more than the sum of its parts, with the concerted effort resulting in a new Lowell.’ Feminist and Women's Studies Association