Amy Lowell: A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.

I’ve touched on Amy Lowell’s poetry briefly before, but she is certainly a poet that demands expanded reading, especially during National Poetry Month. As one of a host of ex-pats living in Europe in 20s, Lowell met and was influenced by some vitally important literary figures. The poet that seems to have left the biggest impression on Lowell is the Imagist Ezra Pound. He and his ilk worked to define, as closely as possible, a moment in time; often times with little to no commentary. Think of Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,”

The apparition of these faces in the crowd,
Petals on a wet, black bough.

or William Carlos William’s “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

While Lowell tended to be a bit more verbose than Pound of Williams (and, really, who isn’t), there are certainly elements of that “caught in the moment” to her work. The great thing about Lowell is that she can capture a moment in time yet infuse it with some wonderful emotion. So it is in “Thoroughfare,” an examination of a London street tinged with the undercurrent of a homesick poet.

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.

They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps,
Cold, white lamps,
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
One,
And then another.
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
Slow-moving,
A river leading nowhere.

 

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city;
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly.

 

I stand in the window and watch the moon.
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon,
And this is an alien city.

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