Amy Lowell’s Men, Women, and Ghosts, per her own preface, is meant to
be an authentic window into the experience of WWI. It is a collection of
30 poems that had been published five times before this 1919 impression.
The reprinting was made possible by electrotype. It was published in New
York, but an earlier printing where the electrotype was produced
occurred in Norwood, Massachusetts.
In the preface Lowell discusses which poems she chose to include in the
collection. She excludes “purely lyrical poems” (ix) because she is more
concerned with experimenting with vers libre, or free verse that does
not subscribe to standardized rhyming and metrical schemes. Lowell
classifies many of her poems as “polyphonic prose” and was a forerunner
of experimentation with the prose poem in English. Many of her poems in
the collection have elements of prose, including “Pickthorn Manor” a
story about a woman whose sweetheart is on the front lines. Lowell also
constructs poems as one would a musical number, as in “Stravinsky’s
Three Pieces ‘Grotesques’, For String”. There are many poems about
impression and perception, including “Spring Day” and “Towns in Colour.”
The collection is divided into five sections: “Figurines In Old Saxe”,
“Bronze Tablets” (which Lowell sees as being most directly about war),
“War Pictures”, “The Overgrown Pasture”, and “Clocks Tick a Century”.
The multiple printings of this collection, and the production of
electrotype plates to make reprinting easy, hint that this was a
widely-read collection of poetry. UNT’s copy itself also shows signs
that it was given as a gift: there is a Christmas card to “Dear
Florence” tucked away in the volume. Lowell’s experimentation with free
verse and her aim for a depiction of what life was like for women and
men during WWI was most likely a success in her contemporary moment.
Find Men, Women and Ghosts and Sword Blades and Poppy Seed in
the UNT Library Catalog.