Mina Loy  

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Mina Loy (December 27, 1882 - September 25, 1966) was an artist, poet, playwright, novelist, Futurist, actor, designer of lamps and bohemian extraordinaire. She was one of the last of the first generation modernists to achieve posthumous recognition. Her poetry was admired by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein.


Early life

Loy was born Mina Gertrude Lowy in London, England. On leaving school, she studied painting, first in Munich for two years and then in London, where one of her teachers was Augustus John. She moved to Paris, France with Stephen Haweis who studied with her at the Académie Colarossi. The couple married in 1903. She first used the name Loy in 1904, when she exhibited six watercolor paintings at the Salon d'Automne in Paris.

Loy soon became a regular in the artistic community at Gertrude Stein's salon, where she met many of the leading avant-garde artists and writers of the day. She and Stein were to remain lifelong friends.

In 1907, Loy and Haweis moved to Florence, Italy where they lived more or less separate lives, becoming estranged. Loy mixed with the expatriate community and the Futurists, having a sexual relationship with their leader Filippo Marinetti. At this time, she began what would be later known as "Songs to Joannes", a tour de force of modernist, avant-garde love poetry about Giovanni Papini, another Futurist with whom Loy had an unsuccessful relationship in Florence. She also started to publish her poems in New York magazines, such as Camera Work, Trend, and Rogue. She was a key figure in the group that formed around Others magazine, which also included Man Ray, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore. She also became a Christian Scientist during this time.

Loy and Arthur Cravan

Disillusioned with the Futurists' move towards Fascism and desiring a divorce, Loy moved to New York in 1916, where she began acting with the Provincetown Players. She soon became a leading member of the Greenwich Village bohemian circuit. Her circle of friends included Carl Van Vechten, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Djuna Barnes. She also met the 'poet-boxer' Arthur Cravan, self-styled Dadaist and fugitive from conscription. Cravan fled to Mexico; when Loy's divorce was final she followed him, and they married in Mexico City. Here, they lived in poverty, and years later, Loy would write of their destitution.

Eventually, they decided - or perhaps were forced - to leave; a few months later, Cravan set sail from Mexico in a small yacht as Loy watched from the beach. He sailed over the horizon, disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again. The tale of his disappearance is strongly anecdotal, as recounted by Loy's biographer, Carolyn Burke.

Return to Europe

Loy returned to Europe, partly to search for Cravan. She was unable to accept his death, and in 1920 she returned to New York, still searching. Here she returned to her old Greenwich Village life, acting and mixing with her fellow writers. In 1923, she returned to Paris and, with the backing of Peggy Guggenheim, started a business designing and making lampshades, glass novelties, paper cut-outs and painted flower arrangements. Her first book, Lunar Baedecker was also published that year. She picked up old friendships with Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein.

Later life and work

In 1936, Loy returned to New York and lived for a time with her daughter in Manhattan. She moved to the Bowery, where she became interested in the Bowery bums, writing poems and creating found art collages on them. In 1946, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Her second and last book, Lunar Baedeker & Time Tables appeared in 1958 and she exhibited her constructions in New York in 1951 and at the Bodley Gallery in 1959. In 1953, Loy moved to Aspen, Colorado, where her daughters Joella and Fabienne were already living. In Colorado, she continued to write and work on her junk collages up to her death at the age of 83.

Loy also wrote a novel, Insel, which was published posthumously.


  • Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy by Carolyn Burke, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.
  • The Lost Lunar Baedeker, by Mina Loy, edited by Roger Conover. Selection of poems by Mina Loy, published in the same year as Burke's biography.
  • Mina Loy: Woman and Poet edited by Maeera Shreiber and Keith Tuma, National Poetry Foundation, 1998. A collection of essays on Mina Loy's Poetry. Includes a 1965 interview. Also includes bibliography
  • Kouidis, Virginia. Mina Loy: American Modernist Poet. Lousiana State UP, 1980. A book-length study of Loy.

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