Lillian Faderman: From "Warding off the Watch and Ward Society: Amy Lowell’s Treatment of the Lesbian Theme"

Until recently most of Lowell’s biographers and critics have pictured her relationship with Ada [Russell] as a workable business arrangement, a close friendship, or at its most intense, a platonic romance. Blinded by their own parochial vision of an overweight, unmarried woman, they characteristically complain that she was "cut off from the prime biological experiences of life by her tragic physical predicament." They seem to deny her any sexuality and suggest that the result of not experiencing elemental passions was that her poetry did little more than [in the words of Hervey Allen] "decorate and arrange . . . as always happens when the sources of inspiration are literary and secondary rather than primarily the expression of emotional experience." On the contrary, the sources of inspiration for [the] "Two Speak Together" [poems from Pictures of the Floating World] were clearly and deeply felt emotional and sexual experiences, at times "told slant’ to avoid "running foul" of popular prejudices. Most often the erotic statement is made fairly directly: since gender is seldom readily apparent the writer risks open sensual description. In "The Letter" the speaker cries, "I scald alone, here, under the fire / Of the great moon." In "The Artist" the speaker begs to see the beloved naked and sexual—" you would quiver like a shot-up spray of water, / You would waver, and relapse, and tremble. / And I too should tremble, / Watching." In "Wheat-in-the-Ear" and "Opal" sensuality and sexuality are again suggested by the burning image: "I see that you are fire—/ Sacrificial fire on a jade altar, / Spear tongue of white, ceremonial fire. / My eyes burn, / My hands are flames seeking you," and "You are like ice and fire, / The touch of you burns my hands like snow."

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Criticism Overview
Title Lillian Faderman: From "Warding off the Watch and Ward Society: Amy Lowell’s Treatment of the Lesbian Theme" Type of Content General Poet Criticism
Criticism Author Lillian Faderman Criticism Target Amy Lowell
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 12 Jan 2019
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Gay Books Bulletin
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