Robert Lowell: 10 Essential Poems

Robert Lowell: 10 Essential Poems Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 11/4/22: Tonight, I read ten essential poems from the American poet, Robert Lowell (1917-1977). Lowell was perhaps the last American poet we could possibly call “famous” during his lifetime. The combination of his early success and subsequent struggles with mental illness meant that the public witnessed all of it, from his slow break with formalism, his stint with “Confessional” poetry, and the wildly uneven nature of his huge output. Ten other people would come up ten other poems to include here. These are mine:

  • Memories of West Street & Lepke (from Life Studies, 1959)
  • The Public Garden (from For the Union Dead, 1964)
  • For the Union Dead (from For the Union Dead, 1964)
  • History (from History, 1973)
  • Bobby Delano (from History, 1973)
  • Anne Dick I. 1936 (from History, 1973)
  • For Robert Kennedy 1925-68 (from History, 1973)
  • Marriage? (Hospital II., part 4) (from The Dolphin, 1973)
  • Dolphin (from The Dolphin, 1973)
  • Epilogue (from Day by Day, 1977)

They can all be found in his Collected Poems. His letters are collected in The Letters of Robert Lowell, Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell, and The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember enjoying Paul Mariani’s Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell.

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