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Janssen, Marian, 1953-
Not at all what one is used to : the life and times of Isabella Gardner / Marian Janssen
Alternate Title Life and times of Isabella Gardner
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, c2010
book jacket
Location Call Number Status
 4th Floor  PS3513.A6335 Z68 2010    AVAILABLE
Subject Gardner, Isabella
Subject(s) Women poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography
Physical Description xiii, 377 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Note Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-358) and index
Contents Of Belle -- "The walled garden," 1915-1933 -- "Not at all what one is used to-," 1934-1942 -- "Shapiro Shangri La," 1943-1949 -- "Writing poetry," 1950-1954 -- "On the wing," 1955-1958 -- "Courting lovers," 1958-1961 -- "Book and bed and booze and blunders of the heart," 1962-1965 -- "The unaired flat," 1966-1973 -- "The dead center of all alone," 1974-1981
Summary Born in 1915 to one of New England's elite wealthy families, the niece and namesake of the important art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (b. 1840-d. 1924), Isabella Gardner was expected to follow a certain path in life, one that would take her from marriageable debutante to proper society lady. But that plan was derailed when at age eighteen, Isabella caused a drunk driving accident. Her family, to shield her from disgrace, sent her to Europe for acting studies, not foreseeing how life abroad would fan the romantic longings and artistic impulses that would define the rest of Isabella's years. In this biography, the author tells the story of this passionate, troubled woman, whose career as a poet was in constant compromise with her wayward love life and her impulsive and reckless character. Life took Gardner from the theater world of the 1930s and '40s to the poetry scene of the '50s and '60s to the wild, bohemian art life of New York's Hotel Chelsea in the '70s. She often followed where romance, rather than career, led her. At nineteen, she had an affair with a future president of Ireland, then married and divorced three famous American husbands in succession. Turning from acting to poetry, Gardner became associate editor of Chicago's Poetry magazine and earned success with her best received collection, Birthdays from the Ocean, in 1955. Soon after, her life took a turn when she met the southern poet Allen Tate. He was married to Caroline Gordon but left her to wed Gardner, who moved to Minneapolis and gave up writing to please him, but after a few short years, Tate fell for a young nun and abandoned her. In the liveliest of places at the right times, Gardner associated with many of the most significant cultural figures of her age, including her cousin Robert Lowell, T.S. Eliot, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Virgil Thomson, Tennessee Williams, and Robert Penn Warren. But famous connections could never save Isabella from herself. Having abandoned her work, she suffered through alcoholism, endured more failed relationships, and watched the lives of her children unravel fatally. Toward the end of her life, though, she took her pen back up for the poems in her final volume. Redeemed by her writing, Gardner died alone in 1981, just after being named the first poet laureate of New York State. Through interviews with many Gardner intimates and extensive archival research, the author delves deep into the life of a woman whose poetry, according to one friend, "probably saved her sanity." Much more than a biography, this the story of a woman whose tumultuous life was emblematic of the cultural unrest at the height of the twentieth century

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