Louise Bogan collection, 1934-1985
Collection Scope and Content
This collection includes a note from Bogan to Ruth Limmer, her literary executor, as well as brief MWWC correspondence with both Limmer and Bogan. There is also a special printing of Bogan’s poem “July Dawn,” a choral piece with text by Bogan, and a poetry manuscript entitled “Wanderlust.” Also included is a Lotte Jacobi photograph of Bogan and clippings relating to Bogan and her work.
Louise Bogan was born on August 11, 1897 in Livermore Falls, Maine. She was raised in Milton, New Hampshire and Ballardvale, Massachusetts, but lived most of her adult life in New York City. She was educated at Boston Girls’ Latin School beginning in 1912 and attended Boston University for one year (1915-1916). Her interest in poetry began early, and she had work published in The New Republic, The Nation, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Scribner’s, and Atlantic Monthly. In 1920, she was widowed after four years of marriage to Curt Alexander, with whom she had one daughter. Her second marriage to poet Raymond Holden in 1925 ended with divorce in 1937.
In 1923, she published her first book, Body of This Death. Her brief lyrics, highly limited in theme, were formal and in sharp contrast to the modernism of such poets as T.S. Eliot, who began to see a rise in popularity at the start of the 1920s. Her next volumes, Dark Summer (1929) and The Sleeping Fury (1937), were born out of the personal tribulations she experienced in her second marriage. She soon met other writers in the city’s thriving literary community: William Carlos Williams, Malcolm Cowley, Lola Ridge, John Reed, Marianne Moore, and Edmund Wilson, who became her early mentor. Wilson, already a man of reputation, urged her to write reviews of literature for periodicals, and this eventually became a steady source of income.
In 1931, Bogan became poetry editor and critic for The New Yorker; she held the position until 1970. Bogan also established a friendship with renowned poet and writer May Sarton. She taught occasionally in the 1940s, and in 1951 she was commissioned to write a short history of American poetry, eventually published as Achievement in American Poetry, 1900-1950. Her second collection, Collected Poems, 1923-1953, won a shared Bollingen Prize in 1955. She received a monetary award in 1959 from the Academy of American Poets and another from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1967. Her final collection, The Blue Estuaries 1923-1968, included only 103 poems and was published in 1968. Her place among the modernist poets was an important one, as she attempted to rejuvenate the tradition of formal poetry, injecting the medium with intellect and emotion to create something truly unique. She died in 1970.