Mina Loy is one of the writers on our Modernity’s course this year. I have to admit she is one that I was not familiar with before the seminar. I was very intrigued by her because she is not the typical writer you would expect to encounter on the syllabi’s. For starters she had no formal or classical training whatsoever. She is an ambiguous character. Her education seems to have come from her reading, traveling and indeed from her own writing. She is also considered to be a feminist poet. Many of her poems seem to speak to many of women’s issues of the time. These issues are very relevant and contribute to many of the feminist arguments that still exist today. Although she is regarded as a feminist writer her work was highly regarded at the time but she seemed to fade away slightly as time went on.
In addition to the class on Loy and H.D. we also had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Loy given by Sarah Hayden. The title of this seminar was “No Cleanly Matter: The Artist as Degenerate/ The Degenerate Artist in Mina Loy’s Insel.” “Insel” is Mina Loy’s novel. This novel captures a moment in time between a poet and a painter. It takes place in Paris in the 1930’s and it is an examination of two artists and the development and creation of their work. Even though It takes place at an interesting time in history it seems to focus more on the interaction between these two artists and on their work. Hayden also presented an interesting dilemma in her work as she is working closely on about forty pieces of paper that have been discovered in Loy’s earliest manuscript. These are all hand written by Loy and offer further insight into her as a writer and into her book. This is a wonderful discovery but Hayden is presented with the difficulty of choosing what pieces of this treasure to present to the outside world. This is certainly a challenge. It also throws up the issue of what bits of this work did Loy want to be revealed to her audience. I remember when I was a teenager reading Kurt Cuban’s diary when it was published. I was fascinated by it and wanted to read the book because he was such an icon of the nineties but I also could not help feeling like I was invading his privacy. The pages were full of secrets and declarations that he did not seem to want to share with the world. He even went so far to write this on many of the pages. He was pleading with the reader not to invade his privacy and still my curiosity got the better of me. As I listened to Sarah give her talk in the seminar I could see that she truly admires Loy and is eager to share more of her work with a wider audience. I thought that this was a very interesting ethical question. Especially when it comes to literature and art it is a tough decision to make.
As a result of discovering Loy I too have become interested in more of her work. We were encouraged in our class to look deeper into her work. We were told to look not just at what was on the surface of her work but to look deeper and spend longer with her writing. I was particularly struck by her feminist manifesto and her poem “The Effectual Marriage.” This poem examines the roles for men and women and the damaging effects of stereotyping gender roles. It shrinks down women’s roles until the women’s whole world becomes a small narrow space. The man’s domain is out in the world and the women’s is in the kitchen. This domestic space appears smaller and the women is trapped inside it. There is a kind of mocking appreciation for the status quo. Despite the kitchen being the women’s space all the objects within it belong to the man. The women is once again an object for a man’s amusement. She is the muse. She is there to be of service to the man. This poem has a very ironic mocking tone. Loy is holding society under a light and letting the reader see it more clearly. When we look closely that is when we can see the cracks start to appear. As I realised this I started to think of a line in a Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” that says ‘there is a crack, a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in“(Cohen, 1992) Loy is shining a light on women’s lives in order for them to be seen more clearly.
I really enjoyed how the speaker does not need to explain that this devision makes no sense. Loy lets her use of punctuation and spacing do that for her. It is as if this order of things creates disorder and that can be seen in the writing on the page. I enjoy Loy’s use of irony. I feel like I have so much more to discover in Loy’s work. It has many undertones and layers to it. I look forward to the discovery of more of her work.
Loy, Mina. Insel. London: Black Sparrow Books, 1991. Print.
Leonard Cohen. Anthem. The Future. Columbia Records,1992. CD.