Louise Bogan was born in Livermore Falls, Maine, on August 11, 1897. Bogan’s father was a mill worker and did not maintain a happy relationship with her mother. The family moved from town to town looking for work throughout New England. This time period saw May Bogan, Louise’s mother, engage in a number of extramarital affairs, a fact she did not hide. Bogan’s mother also often disappeared for long periods of time. These features of her home life had a huge impact on Bogan’s development.
With assistance from outside her family, she was able to attend Girls’ Latin School for five years in her youth. It was here she first started writing poetry. She was also exposed to Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. The publication was only in its first issues but would eventually give her the opportunity to attend Boston University. She was only at the university for a year before leaving. She won a scholarship to Radcliffe College but declined the offer and instead moved to New York City.
Bogan was married at the time with a young daughter, Maidie Alexander. After the death of her husband in 1920, Bogan left on a trip to Vienna where she spent the next few years. It was here she came into the greatest themes of her work, loneliness, and the search for identity. After her return to New York her first book of poetry, Body of This Death: Poems, was published in 1923. It was followed by Dark Summer: Poems.
Bogan was hired as a poetry editor for The New Yorker shortly after her two collections were published. She came into contact with other writers such as William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore. Her third collection was published in 1937 and was titled, Sleeping Fury. This work firmly established her reputation as a master of lyric poetry. The last collection published before her death was The Blue Estuaries: Poems, 1923-1968.
Bogan’s career is also noted for the amount of literary criticism she wrote. One work in this genre was Achievement in American Poetry, 1900-1950. She was also awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1968.
Louise Bogan died in New York City in February of 1970.