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Some Names for Robert Lowell

Karl Miller, 19 May 1983

Robert LowellA Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... Robert Lowell is not difficult to represent as the mad poet and justified sinner of the Romantic heritage. He is the dual personality who breaks the rules, kicks over the traces: he did this in the course of a series of manic highs which came and went from maturity, if not before, until the end of his life in 1977 at the age of 60 ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... In the summer​ of 1935, when he was 18, Robert Lowell and two friends from St Mark’s School – Blair Clark and Frank Parker – rented a house in Nantucket. Under Lowell’s direction, they studied the Bible (with special attention to the Book of Job) and ate cereal with raw honey and ‘badly’ cooked eels ...

The South

Colm Tóibín, 4 August 1994

One Art: The Selected Letters of Elizabeth Bishop 
Chatto, 668 pp., £25, April 1994, 0 7011 6195 7Show More
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... stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach. ‘It is such a wonderful apartment,’ she wrote to Robert Lowell in 1958, that we’ll never rent it again, no matter what heights rents soar to, I think. Top floor, 11th, a terrace around two sides, overlooking all that famous bay and beach. Ships go by all the time, like targets in a shooting ...

Lowellship

John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert LowellEssays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... If Robert Lowell had not been a Lowell would he ever have had the confidence to write the poems he did? It is impossible to imagine the scion of a distinguished English family using that family now as a basis for poetic composition. But all Lowell’s poems are about being a Lowell, or rather, more specifically, about being this Lowell ...

Letter to an Editor

W.H. Auden, 22 December 1983

... Is Robert Lowell Better than Noel Coward, Howard? W.H. Auden’s little poem has passed into the folk memory without, so far as we know, ever having seen print. The editor in question is Howard Moss, who runs the poetry in the New Yorker ...

Broken Nights

Michael Hofmann, 3 April 2003

... Then morning comes, saying: ‘This was a night.’ Robert Lowell Broken knights. – No, not like that. Well, no matter. Something agreeably Tennysonian (is there Any other kind?) About ‘broken knights’. Sir Bors and Sir Bedivere. In my one-piece pyjamas – My it doesn’t matter suit, With necessarily non-matching – Matchless, makeless, makeles – Added top, I pad Downstairs to look At the green time On the digital microwave ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters, 22 September 2005

The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... Writing letters was not the work Robert Lowell thought himself born to do, but what with one thing and another – good friends, a lively mind, deep troubles – he wrote a great many of them, demonstrating at considerable length ‘the excitement of his intelligence and the liveliness of his prose’. These are the words of Saskia Hamilton, the poet who has undertaken the arduous and complicated task of editing this selection ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking from which the most committed Boswellian might recoil. (Though it’s fascinating to speculate what might have happened if Rahv and Mary McCarthy had made a go of it; a marriage ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 21 July 1994

... Summer For months the heat of love has kept me marching Robert Lowell I snap my boy’s bow in the morning, wash his stiffy at night, blow my brains out with music, anything from ‘Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit’ to ‘Sexual Healing’. Je te veux. The vaunted sod under my feet is rolled up like a piece of turf or a blanket in my grenadier’s knapsack, along with a toothbrush and near-pristine candle end ...

Welcome Major Poet!

Sean O’Brien, 14 October 1999

... by your kinship with Dante and Virgil. And don’t feel obliged to remind us just now What it was Robert Lowell appeared to be saying – You’d read him the poem you mean to read us – When the doors of the lift he was in and you weren’t Began closing. Just leave us the screams You could hear as the vehicle descended: Poor Cal. Up to then he’d ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... In April​ 1970, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick – both aged 53, married for 21 years – had just been on holiday together in Italy with their 13-year-old daughter, Harriet. Hardwick and Harriet had come home to New York, where Hardwick taught at Barnard College; Lowell had gone to Oxford to take up a fellowship at All Souls ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... too, that Bishop’s peculiar methods and achievement were somehow exemplary or corrective. Robert Lowell, also an early enthusiast, addressed Bishop handsomely in a poem of his later years as the ‘unerring Muse who makes the casual perfect’ – again the highest praise, and with an emphasis on her role as touchstone and ...

Quod erat Hepburn

John Bayley, 3 April 1986

Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... until it becomes their proper nature. It is the same with writers and artists. Byron or David or Robert Lowell cannot slink off and become their ordinary selves in the intervals of being poets and painters and men of the age. Greta Garbo is always Greta Garbo, once she has found the part. But there is quite a different category of actor, as of ...

I wish she’d been a dog

Elaine Showalter, 7 February 1991

Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... Boulder, Colorado, agreed to go for a ride in his father’s Packard with her 21-year-old suitor Robert Lowell. They had met the year before at a Colorado Writers’ Conference, and Lowell had been courting her intensely through the mails. When she refused to marry him, however, ...

His Own Prophet

Michael Hofmann: Read Robert Lowell!, 11 September 2003

Collected Poems 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter.
Faber, 1186 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 571 16340 8
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... It was reading Robert Lowell that brought me to poetry at the age of 19, in 1976. I had borrowed a friend’s omnibus edition of Life Studies and For the Union Dead, and something in me said: ‘This is it!’ I don’t remember the poem I first had that response to, but most likely it was in Part IV of Life Studies, ‘Dunbarton’ or ‘For Sale’, or perhaps ‘Waking in the Blue ...

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