Saturday, February 16, 2008

In Response to a Nude Photograph of Mina Loy, 1905

From a 1917 interview with Loy in the New York Evening Sun

I'm massively engaged with revisions to my third poetry collection, running up against a deadline, so the review I wished to publish on Raw Light today will have to wait a few more days until I have time to type it up.

Meanwhile, here's something for the weekend ...

The following poem, published in Boudicca & Co, discusses and celebrates the nude photograph I found online here of the experimental poet Mina Loy.


In Response to a Nude Photograph of Mina Loy, 1905

Women poets are not supposed to look like that,
did nobody tell you? The one
with the cigarette is bullish enough
but this, taken naked, face
against the wall with one arse cheek
suggestively raised
is the portrait of a muse, my dear.
In later years, your beauty was eclipsed by age.
Here your skin’s like frost, that white back
and hourglass waist
crying out to be marked, to be photographed.
Did it feel safer like this, turned away
in your nakedness,
to be stared at, lusted after?
‘Leave off looking to men to find out
what you are not,’ you said.
Then let me take you to to bed, Mina,
to the ostrich feather bed
of our imagination. There we’ll smoke
and make poetry all day, decadent
in our sticky love,
looking each other in the eye, drinking
each other’s blood
like tea from a china dish, steeped
in what it means to be us, spawning
our poems like fish.


And to end, here's a rather lovely rough draft of Mina Loy's poem Love Songs I (1915)


Angela France said...

One of my favourites. I love (and am envious of)
in what it means to be us, spawning
our poems like fish.

Jane Holland said...

Thanks, Angela. I sweated blood over that poem; the struggle went on for some ten or twelve drafts, over a space of about six months. The ending was the hardest to get 'right', as usual - though the middle section of this poem was unexpectedly tricky too.

Here's one of those earlier drafts of the last few lines, where my ear was made entirely of cloth:

Step out of the frame, Mina, away from the controlling
gleam in his eye. Take my hand
and let me lead you to bed, to the ostrich feather bed
of our imaginations. There we can smoke
and make poetry all day, listening
to the raw sinuous rhythms of the moon.

Sorlil said...

I also loved this one from your collection, such tenderness with an air of violence especially from line 17 to the end, which is my favorite part!

Jane Holland said...

This poem's about poetic influence as much as anything else. And you can't afford to be too passive or sentimental about the poets who influence you, or you end up writing pastiche.

Hence the 'drinking each other's blood' image - a symbiotic influence, perhaps, as I imagine it here. The living poet drinks from the dead poet, and the dead poet drinks from the living poet, i.e. enjoys a little posthumous life through the act of poetic necrophilia!

I'm very pleased you both liked it.