Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Amy Lowell; Taxi; Metro

Along with H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Richard Aldington, and Ezra Pound, Massachusetts native Amy Lowell was an important Imagist poet in the early decades of the 20th century. Here is a poem by her about a taxi-cab:

The Taxi

by Amy Lowell

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?


As one might expect from a working Imagist, the images are sharp, and they hold one's interest, but to my mind the most compelling feature of the poem is the speaker's relationship to the taxi. In one sense the taxi is personified ("you"), but in another it remains just a taxi. A variety of urban elements constitute barriers between the speaker and the taxi, and although we often have negative associations with taxi-cabs, one can also see how a cab might become a symbol of security. And so, suddenly, the speaker seems to be in the taxi at the end of the poem, and what has come before seems to have been speculation about how difficult life would be if he or she to leave the taxi. I enjoy how the last two lines induce us to reinterpret the lines we just read; the speaker seems to have been in the cab all along. It's a deceptively complex poem.

Here's a wee transportation-poem that's not especially complex, deceptively or otherwise:

For Metro Riders

Behind the smudged
window of a ticket-booth,
an angel evaluated your
sincerity. Now rhythms
of a city owned by noise sooth your
innermost ears. You must have
nodded off. You’re in
the right place on the right
line but after all must
still discover where you
are as you are, going.

Hans Ostrom

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom
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