Mina Loy

Not to be confused with Myrna Loy.
Mina Loy

Mina Loy in 1917
Born Mina Gertrude Löwry
(1882-12-27)27 December 1882
London, England
Died 25 September 1966(1966-09-25) (aged 83)
Aspen, Colorado
Occupation Writer: poet, playwright, novelist; actress, designer
Movement Modernism, futurism

Mina Loy, born Mina Gertrude Löwy (27 December 1882 – 25 September 1966), was a British artist, writer: poet, playwright, novelist, futurist, feminist, designer of lamps, and bohemian. 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, Basil Bunting, Gertrude Stein, Francis Picabia and Yvor Winters, among others.

Personal life

Loy was born in London. She was the daughter of a Hungarian Jewish Father and an English Protestant mother. Loy's first hobby was art. She studied painting in Munich at St. John's Wood School in 1897 for two years. While in London, as an art student, Loy became involved with Stephen Haweis. They moved to Paris to paint and were married there in 1903. Instead of taking her husband's name, Mina changed "Lowy" to "Loy," struggling with the now-familiar feminist dilemma of trying to choose and define what's in a name.[1]

Loy's first child, Oda, was born in May 1904. By 1905 she was a frequent guest at the pre-Toklas Stein salon where—in addition to Leo and Gertrude—she met Apollinaire, Picasso, and Rousseau.[2] She became good friends with Gertrude. Oda died on her first birthday, and the marriage was already faltering by the time (Loy and Haweis) moved to Florence later in the same year.[3] Mina had two more children—Joella in 1907 and Giles in 1908. According to Gillian Hanscombe and Virginia L. Smyers, "During their ten years in Florence, both Mina and Haweis took lovers and developed their separate lives. In 1913 and 1914, though she was coping with motherhood, a soured marriage, lovers, ad her own artistic aspirations, Mina found time to notice and take part in the emerging Italian Futurist movement, let by Filippo Marinetti, and to read Stein's The Making of Americans in manuscript. She became, also, at this time, a lifelong convert to Christian Science." [4]

She married Arthur Cravan, nephew of Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance Lloyd in Mexico City in 1918.[5] When she found out that she was pregnant, she travelled on a hospital ship to Buenas Aires, "where she intented to wait for Cravan, but Craven never appeared, nor was he ever seen again".[6] Cravan was lost at sea without trace;[7] although some mistakenly claim that his body was found later in the desert.[8] She had four children; three by her first husband, Haweis; and one by her second husband, Cravan. Her children by Haweis were: Oda Janet Haweis (1903–1904), Joella Synara Haweis Levy Bayer (1907–2004) and John Giles Stephen Musgrove Haweis (1909 -1923). Her only child with Cravan was called Jemima Fabienne Cravan Benedict (1919–1997).


Loy's poetry was published in several magazines before being published in book-form. Some of the magazines that she was featured in include: Camera Work, Trend and Rogue. Loy had two volumes of her poetry published in her lifetime: The Lunar Baedeker (1923) and The Lunar Baedeker & time-tables (1958). Posthumously, two updated volumes of her poetry were released, The Last Lunar Baedeker (1985) and The Lost Lunar Baedeker (1997), both edited by Roger L. Conover. She also wrote two screenplays: The Sacred Prostitute (1914) and Parturition (1914). She wrote a novel, Insel, which was also published posthumously, in 1991.

Songs to Joannes

Songs to Joannes is in The Lost Lunar Baedeker.[9]


Insel is Loy's only novel. It is about the relationship between a German artist, Insel, and an art-dealer, Mrs. Jones. While some critics have suggested that the novel is based on Loy's relationship with Richard Oelze. However, Sandeep Parmar has argued that it is actually about Loy's relationship with her creative self.[10]

Feminist Manifesto

In 1914, while living in an expatriate community in Florence, Italy, Loy wrote the Feminist Manifesto, for which she is perhaps best known today. The manifesto begins with a direct call on women:[11]

The feminist movement as at present instituted is Inadequate. Women if you want to realize yourselves-you are on the eve of a devastating psychological upheaval-all your pet illusions must be unmasked—the lies of centuries have got to go—are you prepared for the Wrench—? There is no half-measure—NO scratching on the surface of the rubbish heap of tradition, will bring about Reform, the only method is Absolute Demolition. Cease to place your confidence in economic legislation, vice-crusades & uniform education-you are glossing over Reality. Professional & commercial careers are opening up for you—Is that all you want ?

A galvanising polemic against the subordinate position of women in society, the short text remained unpublished in Loy's lifetime.

Return to Europe and New York

Loy (center) with Jane Heap and Ezra Pound in Paris, c. 1923

Loy would return to Florence and her other children. However, in 1916 she moved to New York. While in New York, she worked in a lamp-shade studio, as well as acting in the Provincetown Theater. Here she returned to her old Greenwich Village life, perusing theatre or mixing with her fellow writers. She would mingle and develop friendships with the likes of Ezra Pound, Dadaist Tristan Tzara, and Jane Heap. Tzara in most accounts in 1916 was involved in founding Zurich Dada; Loy did contribute writing to Marcel Duchamp's two editions of The Blind Man.

In 1923, she returned to Paris. Her first volume of poetry, Lunar Baedecker was published this year. Despite doing well in her literary career, she continued to provide for her family through the manufacture and design of lampshades, which she was creating for the shop that she opened with financial backing from Peggy Guggenheim. Loy also picked up old friendships with Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein. In the early 1930s, while still living in Paris, Loy began writing Insel, a künstlerroman that fictionalises her friendship with German surrealist painter Richard Oelze, a friendship begun in part because Loy was the Paris agent for her son-in-law Julien Levy's New York gallery. Loy drafted and revised Insel until 1961, when she unsuccessfully sought its publication. The novel was finally published by Black Sparrow Press in 1991, edited by Elizabeth Arnold.[12]

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 naturalised citizen of the United States. Her second and last book, Lunar Baedeker & Time Tables, appeared in 1958. She exhibited her found art 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 Jemima were already living; Joella, who had been married to the art dealer of Surrealism in New York, Julien Levy, next married the Bauhaus artist and typographer Herbert Bayer. In Colorado, Mina Loy continued to write and work on her junk collages up to her death, from pneumonia, at the age of 83, in Aspen.

Loy and Arthur Cravan

Consider Your Grandmother's Stays, a 1916 drawing by Mina Loy

Disillusioned with the macho elements in Futurism and its move towards Fascism, as well as desiring a divorce from her husband Stephen Haweis, Loy left her children with a nurse and moved to New York in 1916, where she began acting with the Provincetown Players. She was a key figure in the group that formed around Others magazine, which also included Man Ray, William Carlos Williams, Marcel Duchamp, and Marianne Moore. She also became a Christian Scientist during this time. Loy soon became a leading member of the Greenwich Village bohemian circuit. She also met the 'poet-boxer' Arthur Cravan, self-styled Dadaist and fugitive from conscription. Cravan fled to Mexico to avoid the draft; 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.

Once Loy became pregnant, the couple realised they needed to leave Mexico. A few months later, Cravan set sail for Buenos Aires in a small yacht and disappeared without a trace. The tale of his disappearance is strongly anecdotal, as recounted by Loy's biographer, Carolyn Burke. Their daughter was born April 1919.

In a chapter of her memoir entitled "Colossus", Loy writes about her relationship with Cravan, who was introduced to her as "the prizefighter who writes poetry".[13] Irene Gammel argues that their relationship was "located at the heart of avant-garde activities [which included boxing and poetry]".[14] Loy draws on the language of boxing throughout her memoir to define the terms of her relationship with Cravan.[15]


  1. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. Parmar, Sandeep, Mina Loy’s ‘Colossus’ and the Myth of Arthur Cravan, Jacket 34, October 2007
  8. Rainey, Lawrence (2005). Modernism: An Anthology. Malden, MA, United States of America: Blackwell Publishing. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-631-20448-0.
  9. Lyon, Janet; Majerus, Elizabeth. "On "Love Songs" / "Songs to Joannes"". Modern American Poetry. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  10. Parmar, Sandeep (2013). The Reading Mina Loy's Autobiographies: Myth of the Modern Woman. London: A&C Black. ISBN 9781441176400.
  11. http://oncomouse.github.io/loy/feminist.html
  12. Arnold, Elizabeth (1991). "Afterword" Insel. By Mina Loy. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press. ISBN 978-0-87685-853-0
  13. Loy cited in Gammel, Irene (2012), "Lacing up the Gloves: Women, Boxing and Modernity". Cultural and Social History 9.3, p. 379.
  14. Gammel 2012, p. 380
  15. Gammel 2012, pp. 379–81


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