Vorticist Portraiture in Mina Loy’s Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose

By | 1 August 2017

Each of the conditions which challenge Ova are imagined in the sense that ‘in reality’ the streets cannot literally ‘deliver her’ and there is no physical ‘Oracle of civilization’. If this is the case, the verse presents a verbal composition of Ova’s psyche having internalised social conditioning through her accelerating acquisition of language. Loy emphasises the palpable effect of enculturation by representing Ova’s obstacles as concrete and tangible images in the passage above. Whilst the subject may believe that her artistic self-expression is most purely achieved by running away from oppressive Kilburn, Loy constructs a verbal and visual sequence which suggests that Ova’s artistic expression is in fact achieved through her very accommodation of the tensions within the scene. In its suggestion that ‘thou shalt live … by every discomfort / that proceedeth out of legislation’, the stanza echoes ‘the long nightmare’ from ‘Illumination’. Linking these two passages through a similar tone and imagery, Loy seems to suggest that this spatial understanding of herself, is also a moment of hidden revelation for Ova. ‘To run away’, though it most directly articulates Ova’s central concern for artistic self-creation, is surrounded by other elements in constant motion – and through the composition as a whole, Loy presents her vision of the artist.

I have argued throughout this article, that the characters in Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose are presented as Vorticist verbal portraits. Whilst Loy’s writing embodies an essential dynamism which blurs the interior and exterior realities of her characters, the fragments of their personalities and motivations remain distinct, as she imbues her verse with multiple perspectives which achieve fleeting moments of analytic stasis within a cubist frame. The core concern of each character expresses itself repeatedly in various manifestations: Exodus’s restlessness, Ada’s negation and Ova’s struggle for artistic expression continually renew themselves as other elements of their personalities are kept in constant motion. Thus there emerges a central, irreducible tension from within each character, which ultimately represents Loy’s own ‘polished nucleus’.

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