| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Born in Livermore, Maine, Bogan attended private
school in New Hampshire and, after her family moved to Boston, the Girls’ Latin
School, graduating in 1915. Later, she remembered her five years at the
school—renowned for its rigorous classical curriculum—as stimulating and happy.
By age fifteen she considered herself a writer. However, having completed one
year at Boston University, she married an army officer and accompanied him to
Panama, where they had a daughter. After his death in 1920, Bogan lived in New
York, supporting herself with jobs in a bookstore and at the public library.
During these difficult, but exciting years, she frequented literary gatherings
in Greenwich Village and met writers associated with Alfred Kreymborg and his
magazine, Others, among them William Carlos Williams, Lola Ridge, and Conrad
Aiken. She also developed a lasting friendship with the writer-critic Edmund
Wilson. By 1922, her verse had appeared in such leading journals as Poetry,
Vanity Fair, and The New Republic. Early recognition led in 1923 to her first
book, Body of This Death.
1925 to 1937 Bogan was married to Raymond Holden, a poet and for several years
managing editor of The New Yorker. In 1931 she became poetry reviewer for the
magazine, a position she held for thirty-eight years. Her essays and reviews
are collected in two volumes of criticism. From 1933 when she was awarded the
first of two Guggenheim Fellowships for creative writing, she spent periods of
time in Europe.
detachment typical of Bogan’s verse is absent in “Women” (1922). In an accusing
tone, the speaker berates women for reducing their talent and imagination to
attain a life-denying contentment, perpetuating their own meager conditions.
Although the speaker implies male standards against which to judge women’s
actions, the point is, surely, that women should have “wilderness in them,”
should journey with courage, and both think and imagine beyond narrowly defined
limits. When the poem appeared, Bogan herself was not one of the “provident,”
cautious women she describes.
poems from the 1930s reveal the influence of Yeats and Rilke as well as the
range of Bogan’s poetic skill. In lines alive with alliteration, “Roman
Fountain” echoes the startling rise and fall of the fountain, shaped by the
bronze spout to achieve its zenith just a moment before falling. Like the
fountain’s maker, the poet crafts her materials in dramatic, intricate patterns
to capture the image. In contrast to this response to outer reality, “The
Sleeping Fury” details the speaker’s conflict with an inner self, both sister
and avenger of “the kissed-out lie.” Driven by this punishing force, she must
finally acknowledge her mask and its false love. In place of the
flame-enshrouded demon, she discovers upon relinquishing her passion a
childlike figure of dreamless sleep that mirrors her hard-won peace. In long,
fluid lines Bogan conveys deep personal anguish without revealing its factual
late poem, “The Dragonfly,” exemplifies Bogan’s rare experiment with short free
verse lines, capturing through vivid imagery the insect’s appearance and
movement. Like Moore’s animals, Bogan’s dragonfly embodies certain human
characteristics: the “Unending hunger / Grappling love” that cause the beautiful
predator to “rocket into the day,” only to lose “design and purpose” as the
season runs its course. In its faultless diction and elegant simplicity,
Bogan’s finest verse possesses lyric power of a high order.
Theodora Rapp Graham|
Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg
In the Heath Anthology
After the Persian
The Sleeping Fury
Body of This Death
Poems and New Poems
Achievement in American Poetry, 1900-1950
Collected Poems 1923-1953
Selected Criticism: Poetry and Prose
The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968
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Academy of American Poets
Exhibit on Bogan, including a bio, an audio file of her poem The Dragonfly and a bibliography.
Louise Bogan Biography
Includes a biography, selected essays, selected poems, and links to Bogan resources.
Gloria Bowles, Louise Bogan's Aesthetic Limitation, 1987
Christine Colasurdo, "The Dramatic Ambivalence of Self in the Poetry of Louise Bogan," Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Fall 1994
Martha Collins, ed., Critical Essays on Louise Bogan, 1984
Jane Couchman, Louise Bogan: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials, 1915-1975, Part I and II in Bulletin of Bibliography, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Feb.-Mar. 1976), 73-7, 104, and 3 (Apr.-June 1976), 111-26, 147
Elizabeth Frank, Louise Bogan, 1985
William Kerrigan, "Louise Bogan: Marvell of Her Day," Raritan, Fall 1998
Clair Knox, Louise Bogan: A Reference Source, 1990
Ruth Limmer, Journey Around My Room: The Autobiography of Louise Bogan, A Mosaic, 1980
Jacqueline Ridgeway, Louise Bogan, 1984
William Jay Smith, Louise Bogan: A Woman's Words, 1971