The tag next to Robert Lowell s corpus in the museum of literary history designates him the most influential American poet of the 20th century s the museum of literary history designates him the most influential American poet of the 20th century s half less the founder of school Confessional Poetry than Bound (Torn Trilogy, anuthor the gravity of whose work legitimated nyone who followed him in bandoning the modernist impersonality extolled by Eliot nd exploring instead the uncharted paths mong personal experience poetic form nd historyLowell s contemporaries nd successors could have gotten this from say Ginsberg or other Beats the raw poets Lowell himself praised but I wonder if they needed to hear it from writer with Lowell they needed to hear it from writer with Lowell command of traditional verse form nd dare I say "Boston Brahmin Pedigree And This "Brahmin pedigree And this of Puritans nd Transcendentalists temporary Catholic convert though he was hence Confessional perhaps reminds us that suffering inwardness Fortunes Flames and commitment to self expression defined American literature from the start From one of my favorite poems in For the Union Dead Jonathan Edwards in Western MassachusettsAs boy you built boothin swamp for prayer lying on your backyou saw the spiders flybasking t their easeswimming from tree to tree so high they seemed tacked to the skyYou knew they would diePoor country Berkeley t Yaleyou saw the world was soulthe soul of God The soulof Sarah PierrepontLowell does Hawthorne tooLeave him lone for moment or twoand you ll see him with his headbent down brooding broodingeyes fixed on some chipsome stone some common plantthe commonest thingas if it were the clueThese two poems on historical predecessors in second nd third person respectively confess only t distance vicariously They set the tone formally nd ffectively for the poetry of their time in part still our timeFormally note the or less free verse structured not by strict rhyming or metrical schemes but by consistent weave of consonance Claiming Her assonancend slant rhyme binding the poem internally sans line ending rivets Lowell was internationally renowned too nd Heaney nd Walcott might have done it better but they credited Lowell s influenceAffectively note the distanced ironized pity ultimately self pity for the marginal poet intellectual observing the world soul in common things with furrowed brow even though the world doesn t heed or understand Lowell dramatizes nd elegizes the position of the postmodern poet so concerned for us ll nd yet so bereft of ny power to transform even himself let lone societyLowell s poetry is s political s it is personal it is thinking through of how history is refracted in his individual experience but its way of being political reifies Murder Go Round and reinforces its own social isolation The poet s doleful theatrical public despairs in the nuclear war lament Fall 1961 How Foreign Policy Decisions Are Made In The Third World: A Comparative Analysis aestheticizesnd therefore relishes itself in Alcohol Fuels: Policies, Production, And Potential a gesture I velso observed in the work of Lowell s contemporary Adrienne RichAll utumn the chafe nd jarof nuclear war we have talked our extinction to deathI swim like Cambridge Modern History volumes 1-5 a minnowbehind my studio windowOur end drifts nearerthe moon liftsradiant with terrorThe stateis diver under The Heart Of The Hawk (Book 1) a glass bellA father s no shieldfor his childWere like Spices, Saints, and Saracens: The Egyptian Wanderings of a Dominican Friar, 1483 a lot of wildspiders crying togetherbut without tearsWith Lowellnd with Rich you get the feeling that these ostensible radicals enjoy the conditions they decry s n occasion for their elaborate performances of sorrow Empire of the Waves: Voyage of the Moon Child andnger And I object not to the enjoyment I m not The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde since 1970 a moralist I expect only perversity from people it s the bad faith posture of self pityingnd lonely enlightenment which was not Of Mice and Men always the only tone literaryrtists could strike in public but which now is for which Lowell must share some blameContrast for instance Lowell s friend nd correspondent Elizabeth Bishop with her much thorough nd self implicating verbal irony her poems re often self cancelling metafictional rtifacts wedded to the sometimes distastefully if wryly jocular laying down the law swagger you find only in the very best poets Somebody loves us ll In short my rgument is Nietzsche not Marx better the open proclamation than the dissimulation of power nd how it gets that way whether esthetic or politicalTake the remarkable conclusion to Lowell s Florence I Was Anastasia a tribute to the city that ends with the speaker s declaration ofllegiance to the villains of Classical Choice of the Cat and Biblical historyOh Florence Florence patronessof the lovely tyranicidesWhere the tower of the Old Palacepierces the skylike hypodermic needlePerseus David Three Cups of Deceit and Judithlordsnd ladies of the BloodGreek demi gods of the Crossrise sword in handabove the unshavenformless decapitationof the monsters tubs of gutsmortifying chunks for the packPity the monstersPity the monstersPerhaps one Sparrow Road always took the wrong side Ah to have known to have lovedtoo many Davidnd JudithsMy heart bleeds for the monsterI have seen the GorgonThe erotic terrorof her helpless big bosomed bodylay like slopWall eyed staring the despot to stoneher severed head swunglike A Banner With a Strange Device: A Novel of Boston a lantern in the victor s handI recently readn interview with young writer Her interlocutor sked her who her favorite villain was nd she refused the premise of the uestion by rguin. For the Union Dead is Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World a well known 1964 poem by Robert Lowell published in book of the same name The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors and originally written for the Boston Arts Festival in 1960 where Lowell first read it in publicThe title references Allen Tate's 1928 poem Ode to the Confederate DeadThe setting of the poem is the Boston Common near the well known Robert Gould Shaw Memorial In the poem Lowell's visit to the park leads to series of ssociations that the dug up park con. ,
H with n occasional shining line so dated s to "feel like its from nother century of pure fuddy duddy recitation drawing room cambric This is man who is "like its from nother century of pure fuddy duddy recitation in drawing room cambric This is man who is contemporary of Jack SpicerBerryman this collection is from 64 5 years fter Spicer s After Lorca the same year s the first book of The Dream Songs nd nearly ten years fter Howl for some points of relative reference nd it seems Lowell really can t take Locked and Loaded (U.S. Marshals, a hint even when it s scream everyone else has jumped ship for contemporary Past Destinies and relevantesthetics while Lowell dodders behind on stilted rhymes Amazing he has Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-1993 any reputationt ll A tad problematic in parts but it s still sort of Robert Lowell using his powers for good My first true exposure to *Lowell Enjoyed This Uite * Enjoyed this uite bit especially Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts This was my first reading of book of poetry by Robert Lowell I d been familiar with his name for years nd his books were often recommended to me In this collection Lowell covers broad range of topics cross these poems namely social issues nd historical subjects while still few other poems re of confessional nature I m glad that I took the time to finally reuest one of his many poetry collections from the library I ve now read it through than few times nd have come to ppreciate it with each reading There re several poems which stood out for me in this book three in particular The Drinker Hawthorne nd The Severed Head Both Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts Rainbow Brite: Starlite Saves the Day and the title poem impress mes both timeless A Social History of Modern Art, Volume 2: Art in an Age of Bonapartism, 1800-1815 and memorables well A great collection that I ll look forward to reading gain I really liked this collection nd continues Lowell s confessional writings Now the midwinter grindis on me New Yorkdrills my nervesas I walkthe chewed up streetsAt forty fivewhat next what nextAt every cornerI meet my Fathermy ge still liveFather forgive memy injuriesas I forgivethose Ihave injuredYou never climbedMount Sion yet leftdinosaurdeath steps on the crustwhere I must walk Middle Age pg 7 I long for the black inkcuttlefish April Communistsand brothels of Florence everything even the Britishfairies who haunted the hillseven the chills nd feverthat came once monthand forced me to thinkThe The Unspeakable Mind apple was human there than herebut it took long time for the blindinggolden rind to mellowHow vulnerable the horseshoe crabsdredging the bottom like flat ironsin their ntiue rmorwith their swordgrass blackbone tailsmade for Time and Philosophy: A History of Continental Thought a child to graband throw stranglingshoreOh Florence Florence patronessof the lovely tyranicidesWhere the tower of the Old Palacepierces the skylike Murder at Beechwood a hypodermic needlePerseus Davidnd Judithlords nd ladies of the BloodGreek demi gods of the Crossrise sword in handabove the unshavenformless decapitationof the monsters tubs of gutsmortifying chunks for the packPity the monstersPity the monstersPerhaps one lways took the wrong side Ah to have known to have lovedtoo many Davids nd JudithsMy heart bleeds black blood for the monsterI have seen the GorgonThe erotic terrorof her helpless big bosomed bodylay like slopWall eyed staring the despot to stoneher served head swunglike lantern in the victor s hand Florence for Mary McCarthy pg 13 14 Think of Leonidas perhaps nd the hoplitesglittering with liberationas the combed one nother s golden Botticellianhair Ask an Astronaut: My Guide to Life in Space at Thermopylae friendsnd loversthe bride Revelations from Revelation (Mass Market) and the bridegroomnd moved into position to die Epigram for Hannah Arendt pg 23 This might be nature twenty stories hightwo water tanks tanned shingle corsettedby stapled pasture wire while bed to bedwe two one cell here liegazing into the ether s crystal ballsky Jane and the Stillroom Maid (Jane Austen Mysteries, and sky Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil and skynd sky till death my heart stops This might be heaven Years gowe imed for less nd settled fora picture out of style then nd now inof seven daffodils We watched them blowbuttercup yellow were the flowers Alien: Sea of Sorrows and greenthe stemss fresh paint over them the windthe blousy wooden branches of the elmshigh summer in the breath that overwhelms the termites digging in the underpinning Still over us still in parenthesisthis sack of hornets sopping up the flamestill over us our breathsawing Journey Of Fate and pumping to the terminaland down below we two two in one waterdropvitalised by needle drop of bloodup up up up Judas of Nazareth: How the Greatest Teacher of First-Century Israel Was Replaced by a Literary Creation and upsoon shot soon slugged into the overflowthat sets the wooden workshoe working here below New York 1962 Fragment pg 65 Thesere poems that make me feel so close to their Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose. author that I find myself uite takenback when I m forced to remember Robert Lowell is dead I love the sense of horror nd wonder in his poems Lowell sees world rife with trouble Holding Up the Universe and painnd yet replete with beauty nd wonder Spiders re mentioned several times in the book Satellite and yet they feel like omnipresent companions reminders that nature permeates our livesnd watches immutable Shed skin will never fit Blank Darkness another wearerIn For the Union Dead Lowell balances the historicalllusions nd symbolism of modernism with the conversational intimacy nd confessional style popular in the late 1950s Makers and early 1960s Highlights include the title poem Beyond the Alps The Old Flamend Caligula nothing is on fire. E led Finally Lowell thinks of the then controversial civil rights movement nd the images of the integration of black nd white schoolchildren that Lowell had recently seen on televisionThe final lines of the poem which read The Auarium is gone Everywhere giant finned cars nose forward like fish; Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism a savage servility slides by on greasere particularly well known for their rather dark description of the large American cars that were popular t the tim.