Bray brassily (PoemTalk #187)

Mina Loy, "Love Songs"

from left: Maya Pindyck, Hoa Nguyen, Laynie Browne


Al Filreis brought together Hoa Nguyen, Maya Pindyck, and Laynie Browne to talk about two of the poems (#1 and #4) in Mina Loy’s “Love Songs” series, which she published in 1915 in the first issue of Others magazine not long before her arrival onto the New York modernist scene the next year. A bit more than a half century later, Loy would die at the age of 83 in 1966; in 1965 the poet Paul Blackburn, who loved nothing more than to tape recordings of poets reading and conversing — along with Robert Vas Dias — turned the mic on and interviewed Loy at her home in Aspen, Colorado, and asked her to read poems and offer spontaneous commentary. The poems included all thirteen of the “Love Songs.” This remarkable one-hour-and-36-minute reading/conversation is available – both as a single recording and segmented recordings by poem and interview topic – at PennSound’s must-hear Loy page.

Loy has been called “the forgotten Futurist,” and our group considers the futurism of these poems — its radical science (“unnatural selection”), its mechanistic, kinetic imagery (“eternity in a sky-rocket”). But our consensus was that this writing postdates Loy’s abiding, if she ever did abided it, of Futurism’s misogyny. The poetry’s “art of intuition,” its sexuality, its “turning” radical rather than reactionary, its feminist version of modernism’s rejection of romanticism, its interest in the fabulous blur and imprecision of the sexual body and its fluid unfixing of figurations of the body’s expressions (“tears / Are snowdrops or molasses / Or anything”), its frank internality — these, in this discussion, move in a revolutionary direction mostly distinct from other modern movements or gatherings. (Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven’s New York dadaism might be one helpful parallel or connection.) Ultimately, the group agrees that what is powerful about “Love Songs” can be discerned in its transvaluational exploration of the supposed oft-suppressed “suspect places.” And the poems themselves have formed one such place.

Love Songs


Spawn   of   fantasies
Sifting the appraisable
Pig Cupid     his rosy snout
Rooting   erotic   garbage
"Once upon a time"
Pulls a weed   white star-topped
Among wild oats sown in mucous membrane

I would   an   eye in a Bengal light
Eternity in a sky-rocket
Constellations in an ocean
Whose rivers run no fresher
Than   a   trickle of saliva

These are suspect places
I must live in my lantern
Trimming subliminal flicker
Virginal to the bellows
    Of experience

                 Colored    glass.


Evolution fall foul of
Sexual equality
Prettily miscalculate

Unnatural selection
Breed such sons and daughters
As shall jibber at each other
Uninterpretable cryptonyms
Under the moon

Give them some way of braying brassily
For caressive calling
Or to homophonous hiccoughs
Transpose the laugh
Let them suppose that tears
Are snowdrops or molasses
Or anything
Than human insufficiences
Begging dorsal vertebrae

Let meeting be the turning
To the antipodean
And Form a blur
Than to seduce them
To the one
As simple satisfaction
For the other

A few hours after the recording of this PoemTalk episode, Hoa Nguyen gave a reading in the Arts Café of the Kelly Writers House. The video can be found here at the KWH YouTube page and is also embedded here below. This episode was engineered and directed by Zach Carduner and Paul Burke, and edited as always by Zach. We wish to thank David Roberts for his support of PoemTalk and other forums for recorded and online literary discussion.

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