Lunar Baedeker

Richard Oelze
Richard Oelze

The poet, trail-blazing feminist and legendary gadfly of the avant-garde, Mina Loy, first collection of poetry was published in 1923 as Lunar Baedecker: the very title, a reference to the immensely popular Baedeker travel guides, was misspelled. Although admired by T.S Eliot, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein,  among others, Loy disappeared somewhat from view until being posthumously resurrected in the 1990’s as a unjustly neglected pioneer of both Modernism and Feminism, when a number of critical editions and previously unpublished works, including her novel Insel, detailing her relationship with the Surrealist Richard Oelze, saw the light of day.

Below is the title poem of the collection (spelled correctly), which employs a jewelled, archaic and Symbolist vocabulary to successfully skewer the sterile affectations of the aesthetes and dandies of the art and literary worlds that she knew so well.

Lunar Baedeker

A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah’s tombstones

to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous—

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

—Stellectric signs
“Wing shows on Starway”
“Zodiac carrousel”

of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And “Immortality”
in the museums of the moon

“Nocturnal cyclops”
“Crystal concubine”
Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes—-

Mina Loy 1923

17 thoughts on “Lunar Baedeker

  1. ‘Peris in livery, prepare Lethe for posthumous par venues’ … Very trippy, but what else would you expect on an excursion to the moon, I suppose. I wouldn’t have guessed the 1920’s for its age. Then again, Modernism, right? Mina Loy sounds like my kind of girl. The Expectation shows up at the bottom of your post. That is an amazing and disturbing piece of work. Very interesting stuff

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    1. While Mina was very close to Richard Oelze (though I don’t think they were lovers) and I think she helped him out financially from time to time. In her novel Insel he comes out as a kind of Bohemian Satanic figure, with electricity leaking out of his eyes, hypnotic and mesmerising, and with a suggestion that when he wanted to make ends meet he would pimp out his girlfriends. Most of the Surrealists feature in disguised fashion. She thought that the Surrealists were kind of black magicians. She has a point. She was closer to New York Dada, and of course the love of her life was Arthur Craven. Very trippy indeed. Crystal concubine, great description for the moon. The Modernist were way ahead of the curve. Alas I don’t think the avant garde as such exists anymore.

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      1. I really like Oelze work, unfortunately he destroyed most of it. A dark vision. She was also friends with Djuna Barnes, whose novel Nightwood is brilliant and has one of the best monologues in fiction.

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      2. Well Nightwood, though hard work at the beginning, is brilliant. Dr Matthew-Mighty-Grain-of-Salt Dante O’Connor is a truly unforgettable loquacious character, Barnes said she didn’t invent him at all, he was a well known character in Paris who had served in the US Navy and can talk for days on end with every one listening attentively.

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      1. I was lucky enough to stumble across the Baedecker without any prior knowledge of Mina Loy, her background, the circles she travelled in. I was simply beguiled by the title. Having read it, it was with great joy that i discovered more about her life. An amazing person.

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      2. Yes, truly amazing. I called her the Forrest Gump of the international avant garde…which I meant as a compliment, she was everywhere and a truly gifted writer and fierce thinker.

        Liked by 1 person

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