My close readings: section i | section xiii | section xv | section xix | sections xxxii & xxxiv
Here, I have reimagined the publication of Loy’s “Songs to Joannes” according to her instructions in a letter to Carl Van Vechten, which can be found on page three of the letter. Loy had a grand vision for the layout of that issue of Others, including the text “printed on one side of each page only,” “a large round in the middle of the blank reverse of each page,” the dedication “TO. YOU,” and “one whole entirely blank page with nothing on it between the first & second parts,” but the budget of the struggling publication could not accommodate her requests (Churchill 195). It was published originally in Others magazine in a simpler form than what Loy had initially requested.
Loy’s vision for this publication reveals some important aspects of meaning in the poem that could have been accentuated through this printing. For one, Suzanne Churchill notes, “The circle is a multivalent symbol in ‘Songs to Joannes,’ one that represents the potential for widening horizons, but also signifies negation and indicates a closed system” (Churchill 200). The strong tensions between expansion and limitation that would have been embodied by the physical circle on the page evoke the tensions between an idealized vision of love and the reality of limitation and heartbreak. Though Loy does not indicate exactly where she would break the poem into its second part, she does indicate that “all the first were in a red hot agony—the first of the second part in the traditional recuperation in the country—& the rest—settled cerebral” (Loy, “[Autographed Letter Signed to] Carl Van Vecthen”). From this description, I infer that the break would have happened following section xvii, which Shreiber describes as depicting “the terror of a back-alley abortion” and would have required both physical and mental “recuperation” due to the trauma the speaker sustains (Shreiber 102). Having nothing on the page between the two parts of the poem would have allowed the reader to spatially experience the abrupt emptiness and helplessness of the speaker following her abortion and heartbreak, but also would have represented the newness of learning to heal and gaining perspective following this experience.
In seeing my reimagination of Loy’s wishes for the publication and reading through the entire poem in this remediated form, I have discovered some new notable aspects of the poem. The endless repetition of the circle, even following the heartbreak and pain between the two parts, comes to symbolize relentlessness and hope–a visual symbol that is absent when I solely consider the text of the poem. The white space that results from only having text on one side of each page and having the completely blank page in the center grants the emptiness almost as much presence and weight as the words themselves, simultaneously emphasizing loneliness and mourning, even in love, alongside freshness and renewal.
Churchill, Suzanne W. “Mina Loy: The Poetics of Dislodging.” The Little Magazine Others and the Renovation of Modern American Poetry. Burlington: Ashgate Limited, 2006. 179-222. Print.
Loy, Mina. “[Autographed Letter Signed to] Carl Van Vecthen.” Beinecke Library Collection: Yale University.
–. “Songs to Joannes.” Others Apr. 1917: 3. Index of Modernist Magazines. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
Shreiber, Maeera. “”Love Is a Lyric / of Bodies”: The Negative Aesthetics of Mina Loy’s Love Songs to Joannes.” Mina Loy: Woman and Poet. Ed. Keith Tuma and Maeera Shreiber. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1998. 87-109. Print.
The version of the poem I have used for my digital publication comes from Mina Loy Online and is true to the text of the original 1917 Others publication of the poem.