The Loyola community is pleased to recognize and congratulate Melissa Bradshaw, PhD, instructor in the English department, who was recently awarded the MLA Prize for Independent Scholars.
Bradshaw was awarded this prize for her book, Amy Lowell, Diva Poet, which explores the impact of Amy Lowell’s poetry in pop culture, literary circles, and history.
“It’s exciting and gratifying,” says Bradshaw about receiving this award. “I’ve worked a long time on Amy Lowell. I wanted people reading her poetry again.”
Lowell was more recognized for her celebrity status than her writings, and her poetry went largely unnoticed in the academic sphere after she died, according to Bradshaw. This fall from favor qualifies her as what Bradshaw calls a “diva poet,” a term she created herself. Bradshaw says society places the term diva on women who are not taken seriously and are expected to fail.
“We love it when divas fail. The way the diva is constructed is not about celebrating their femininity. It is locking them into a type of predictable narrative,” says Bradshaw.
Naming Lowell a diva gives people a sense of how famous she was during her years and also examines her eventual disappearance from literary history, says Bradshaw. Only in recent years has Lowell’s poetry started to appear again in published collections. Bradshaw says she spent most of her career trying to get Lowell recognized once more in the literary world. In 2002, Bradshaw helped compile the first ever anthology of Lowell’s poetry, Selected Poems of Amy Lowell.
Bradshaw says she is attracted to Lowell’s poems because “they are deceptively simple and immediately accessible.” Instead of being “stuffy, old poetry,” Bradshaw says her poetry is forceful and transcends generations. Additionally, although Lowell was writing 75 to 100 years ago, the messages are still applicable and relevant today, which works well in the classroom.
“You can have students who don’t like poetry. You can give them a poem by Lowell, and they’re like ‘Oh yeah, this works for me,'” says Bradshaw.
This timelessness of Lowell’s poetry allows people of all ages to relate to her work, and that encapsulates Bradshaw’s goal.
“Both the older generation and the younger generation get excited about reading Lowell,” says Bradshaw. “It is gratifying that they still like her poems.”
Congratulations again to Dr. Bradshaw. The publication prizes will be awarded in a ceremony on January 5 at the 2013 MLA Annual Convention in Boston.