Mina Loy is being featured at wood s lot, and among the links is a long essay by Marjorie Perloff about her autobiographical poem “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose” (first published 1923-25). It’s an informative and interesting piece; what I want to highlight here is a remarkable quote from an essay this English-born poet who was seen as American even when she’d only spent a year in the country wrote about the American language:
It was inevitable that the renaissance of poetry should proceed out of America, where latterly a thousand languages have been born, and each one, for purposes of communication at least, English — English enriched and variegated with the grammatical structure and voice-inflection of many races . . . Out of the welter of this unclassifiable speech, while professors of Harvard and Oxford labored to preserve “God’s English,” the muse of modern literature arose, and her tongue had been loosened in the melting pot.
—Mina Loy, “Modern Poetry,” Charm 3, April 1925
I’m not a big fan of her poetry, which is too unmusical for my ear, but I like the quote a lot. (If you’re curious about her poetry, you can read her 1923 book Lunar Baedecker [sic] here.)
Incidentally, her name was originally the Austro-Hungarian-Jewish Löwy, which I presume was pronounced LOW-ee in Victorian London; she changed it when she moved to Paris at the age of 20 in 1903. Other onomastic oddities: her first husband’s family name, Hawies, is pronounced HAW-iss and is apparently from a Norman female personal name, Haueis (from Germanic Haduwidis: hadu ‘strife, contention’ + widi ‘wide’—I take this information from the entry on Hawes in Patrick Hanks’s Dictionary of American Family Names); her second husband (and the great love of her life) Arthur Cravan, who disappeared off the coast of Mexico in 1918, was born Fabian Avenarius Lloyd (the Lloyd/Loy similarity was important to the poet), and (in the words of Wikipedia) “changed his name to Cravan in 1912 in honour of his fiancée Renée Bouchet, who was born in the small village of Cravans in the department of Charente-Maritime in western France. Why he chose the name Arthur remains unclear.” I have no idea if this invented name was pronounced KRAV-ən or krə-VAN (or some other way) by him and those who knew him; I’m also not sure how to pronounce the poet’s given name. I always said MY-nə, which seemed the obvious Victorian English pronunciation, but Carolyn Burke’s remark (in the introduction to her biography of Loy) that “in some moods she announced contrarily that it was pronounced ‘miner,’ British style” implies that it was normally pronounced MEE-nə. (Burke also says “Rexroth, who knew both women, told me that the actress [Myrna Loy], née Williams, named herself after the poet, but efforts to have this story confirmed went unrewarded.”)