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Robert Lowell


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Robert Lowell (March 1, 1917–September 12, 1977), born Robert Traill Spence Lowell, IV, was an American poet whose works, confessional in nature, engaged with the questions of history and probed the dark recesses of the self. He is generally considered to be among the greatest American poets of the twentieth century.

Lowell reached wide acclaim for his 1946 book, Lord Weary’s Castle, which included ten poems slightly revised from his earlier Land of Unlikeness, and thirty new poems. Among the better known poems in the volume are “Mr Edwards and the Spider” and “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. ” Lord Weary’s Castle was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.

The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951) did not receive a similar acclaim, but Lowell was able to revive his reputation with the award-winning Life Studies (1959), a book that reflected stylistic changes that seemed more in line with the popular openness of Beat and Confessional poetry. It was a shift that for the rest of Lowell’s career would produce frequent flashes of brilliance and enable him to achieve respect among Counter Culture revisionists.

Lowell followed Life Studies with a volume of loose translations of poems by, among others, Rilke and Rimbaud, Imitations, for which he received the 1962 Bollingen Poetry Translation Prize.

For the Union Dead, 1964, was also widely praised, particularly for its title poem, which invokes Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead.” Following this book, however, many critics began to find Lowell’s poetry collections becoming more inconsistent.

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