Whose muse? Sappho, Swinburne and Amy Lowell

2016-10-05T11:13:37Z (GMT) by Sarah Parker
Swinburne’s influence on a number of modernist writers has been remarked upon in several relatively recent critical studies. For example, the modernist poets H. D. and T. S. Eliot provide the focus for comparative studies by Cassandra Laity (1996) and Thaïs. E. Morgan (1993). In this essay, I propose that the American modernist poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925) should be included in this list, arguing that her work exhibits a number of similarities to Swinburne’s poetry. These similarities stem from Swinburne and Lowell’s shared understanding of Sappho as an important poetic precursor, muse figure, and homoerotic archetype. I argue that Sappho’s influence on Swinburne and Lowell is instrumental in creating an anxiety that subsequent readers and critics ‘ward off’ by ‘forgetting’ their poetic corpuses. This results in the devaluation and neglect of both poets despite their considerable contributions to poetry.