Louise Marie Bogan

Louise Bogan (1897-1970), circa 1920. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Louise Bogan
Born August 11 1897(1897-Template:MONTHNUMBER-11)
Livermore Falls, Maine, United States
Died 4 1970(1970-Template:MONTHNUMBER-04) (aged 72)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Poet, critic
Nationality United States United States
Alma mater Boston University

Louise Marie Bogan (August 11, 1897 - February 4, 1970) was an American poet. She was appointed the fourth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1945.



Bogan was born in Livermore Falls, Maine, where her father Daniel Bogan worked for various paper mills and bottling factories. She spent most of her childhood years with her parents and brother growing up in mill towns in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, where she and her family lived in working-class hotels and boardinghouses until 1904.

With the help of a female benefactor, Bogan was able to attend the Girls' Latin School for five years which eventually gave her the opportunity to attend Boston University. In 1916, after only completing her freshman year and giving up a fellowship to Radcliffe, she left the university to marry Curt Alexander, a corporal in the U.S. Army, but their marriage ended in 1918. Bogan moved to New York to pursue a career in writing, and their only daughter Maidie Alexander was left under the care of Bogan's parents. After her first husband's death in 1920, she left and spent a few years in Vienna, where she explored her loneliness and her new identity in verse. She returned to New York City and published her first book of poetry, Body of This Death: Poems in 1923, meeting that year the poet and novelist Raymond Holden. They were married by 1925. Four years later, she published her second book of poetry, Dark Summer: Poems, and shortly after was hired as a poetry editor for The New Yorker. However, the constant struggle between Holden' self-indulgence and Bogan's jealousy resulted in their divorce in 1937.

Despite the hardships Bogan encountered during the 20's and 30's, she was able to experience the fascinations of the Renaissance painting, sculpture and ornament. However, this was soon interrupted by the onset of a mental illness that landed her in a psychiatric hospital in 1931 and again in 1933, where she was diagnosed with depression marked by obsessive and paranoid inclinations.


Not only was it difficult being a female poet in the 1920s and 30s, but her lower-middle-class Irish background and limited education also brought on much ambivalence and contradiction for Louise Bogan. She even refused to review women poets in her early career and stated, "I have found from bitter experience that one woman poet is at a disadvantage in reviewing another, if the review be not laudatory."

Bogan did not normally discuss intimate details of her life (and disdained such confessional poets as Robert Lowell and John Berryman). In a letter to Edmund Wilson, she detailed a raucous affair that she and the yet-unpublished Roethke carried on in 1935, during the time between his expulsion from Lafayette College and his return to Michigan. At the time she seemed little impressed by what she called his "very, very small lyrics"; she seems to have viewed the affair as, at most, a possible source for her own work (see What the Woman Lived: Collected letters of Louise Bogan).

Most of her work was published before 1938. This includes Body of This Death (1923), Dark Summer (1929) and The Sleeping Fury (1937). She also translated works by Ernst Junger, Goethe, and Jules Renard. Later in Bogan's life, a volume of her collected works, The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968, was published with such poems as "The Dream" and "Women".

Her poetry was published in The New Republic, The Nation, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Scribner's and Atlantic Monthly, and she was the poetry reviewer of The New Yorker from 1931 until 1969, when she retired. She was a strong supporter, as well as a friend, of the poet Theodore Roethke.

In late 1969, shortly before her death, she ended her 38-year career as a reviewer for The New Yorker stating, "No more pronouncements on lousy verse. No more hidden competition. No more struggling not to be a square."

On February 4, 1970, Louise Bogan died of a heart attack in New York City. The Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College holds some of her papers.

A number of autobiographical pieces were published posthumously in Journey around My Room (1980).


"I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!" - Louise Bogan

Bogan's poetic style was unlike that of Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot. Suzanne Clark, an English Professor from the University of Oregon, stated that Bogan often refers to her female speakers as "the locus of intemperate, dangerous, antisocial desires." This coincides with the notion that Bogan brought a different perspective to the traditional viewpoint of women.


Her Collected Poems: 1923-1953 won her the Bollingen Prize in 1955, plus an award from the Academy of American Poets in 1959.

Elizabeth Frank's biography of Louise Bogan, Louise Bogan: A Portrait, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986.

Ruth Anderson's sound poem I Come Out of Your Sleep (revised and recorded on Sinopah 1997 XI) is constructed from speech sounds in Bogan's poem "Little Lobelia".



  • Body of This Death. McBride, 1923.
  • Dark Summer. New York: Scribner, 1929.
  • The Sleeping Fury. New York: Scribner, 1937.
  • Poems and New Poems. New York: Scribner, 1941.
  • Collected Poems, 1923-1953. New York: Noonday Press, 1954.
  • The Blue Estuaries: Poems, 1923-1968. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1968.
  • Five Lyrics of Louise Bogan: For mezzo-soprano and flute. Bryn Mawr, PA: Presser, 1984.


  • Women. Ward Ritchie, 1929.
  • Achievement in American Poetry, 1900-1950 (criticism). Chicago: Regnery, 1951.
  • Selected Criticism: Prose, poetry. Noonday Press, 1955.
  • Emily Dickinson: Three views. Amherst, MA: Amherst College Press, 1960.
  • (Author of afterword) Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary: Being extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf. New York: New American Library, 1968.
  • A Poet's Alphabet: Reflections on the Literary Art and Vocation (edited by Robert Phelps & Ruth Limmer). New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
  • Journey around My Room: The autobiography of Louise Bogan: A mosaic (edited by Ruth Limmer). New York: Viking, 1980.
  • A Poet's Prose: Selected writings, with the uncollected poems (edited by Mary Kinzie). Athens, OH: Swallow Press / Ohio University Press, 2005.[1]


  • Yvan Goll, Elegy of Ihpetonga / Masks of Ashes. Noonday Press, 1954.
  • Ernest Juenger, The Glass Bees (translated with Elizabeth Mayer). Noonday Press, 1961.
  • Yvan Goll, The Myth of the Pierced Rock. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, 1962.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities (translated with Elizabeth Mayer). Chicago: Regnery, 1963.
  • Jules Renard, Journal (edite & translated with Elizabeth Roget). New York: Braziller, 1964.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther and Novella (translator with Mayer of verse). New York: Random House, 1971.


  • The Golden Journey: Poems for Young People (with William Jay Smith). Chicago: Reilly & Lee (Chicago), 1965.


  • What the Woman Lived: Selected letters, 1920-1970 (edited by Ruth Limmer). New York, 1973.
  • (With Mildred Weston) Our Thirty Year Old Friendship: Letters from Louise Bogan, conversations with Mildred Weston; and, Legacy: Poems from the Twenties to the Nineties (with an excerpt from her interview with Leon Arksey). Cheney, WA: Eastern Washington University, 1997.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[2]

Audio / videoEdit

Song For The Last Act by Louise Bogan (read by A Poetry Channel)02:18

Song For The Last Act by Louise Bogan (read by A Poetry Channel)

  • Louise Bogan: Reading her own poems (cassette). Wshington, DC: Library of Congress, 1949.
  • Louise Bogan Reads from Her Own Works (LP). New York: Decca, 1954.
  • Louise Bogan Reads Her Works (LP). New York: Carillon, 1961.
  • Louise Bogan (cassette). New York: Academy of American Poets, 1968.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[3]

Poems by Louise BoganEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. Search results = au:Louise Bogan, 1997-2013, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 7, 2014.
  2. Louise Bogan 1897-1970, Poetry Foundation, Web, June 23, 2012.
  3. Search results = au;Louise Bogan + audiobook, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, June 8, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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