Amy Lowell wasn’t writing about flowers

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WHEN I FIRST discovered the poetry of Amy Lowell, I was so taken with a group of her erotic poems that I suggested to my writer friend Judith that she do a one-woman show as Lowell reading her work. She could use the same sort of props that Lowell herself used when reading, as she did at every opportunity: a bare stage with a chair, a floor lamp, and a table with a glass of water on it. But when I started reading some of the poems aloud, I realized that the lesbian love lyrics were too explicit to be read to the target audience, which I envisioned as a largely college-age crowd of mostly women. One of the most explicit, “The Weather-Cock Points South,” was typical of these love poems in its use of flower imagery:

I put your leaves aside,
One by one:
The still broad outer leaves;
The smaller ones,
Pleasant to touch, veined with purple;
The glazed inner leaves
One by one
I parted you from your leaves
Until you stood up like a white flower
Swaying slightly in the evening wind. […]

Where in all the garden is there such a flower?

The bud is more than the calyx.
There is nothing to equal a white bud,
Of no color and of all,
Burnished by moonlight,
Thrust upon by a softly-swinging wind.

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