Robert Lowell

Finalist, National Book Awards 1965
Winner, National Book Awards 1960
Finalist, 1970 National Book Awards

Robert Lowell, 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.
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For the Union Dead

For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell book cover
ISBN 978-0374530969 FSG Classics /
About the book

Life Studies

Life Studies by robert lowell book cover
ISBN 9780374530969 Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy
About the book

Notebook, 1967-68

Cover of Notebook 1967-68 by Robert Lowell
ISBN 9780374509477 Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Full Bio

Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell, 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.

His first and second books, Land of Unlikeness (1944) and Lord Weary’s Castle (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize in 1947, at the age of thirty), were influenced by his conversion from Episcopalianism to Catholicism and explored the dark side of America’s Puritan legacy.

Under the influence of Allen Tate and the New Critics, he wrote rigorously formal poetry that drew praise for its exceptionally powerful handling of meter and rhyme. Lowell was politically involved—he became a conscientious objector during the Second World War and was imprisoned as a result, and actively protested against the war in Vietnam—and his personal life was full of marital and psychological turmoil. He suffered from severe episodes of manic depression, for which he was repeatedly hospitalized.

Partly in response to his frequent breakdowns, and partly due to the influence of such younger poets as W. D. Snodgrass and Allen Ginsberg, Lowell in the mid-fifties began to write more directly from personal experience, and loosened his adherence to traditional meter and form. The result was a watershed collection, Life Studies (1959).

Considered by many to be the most important poet in English of the second half of the twentieth century, Lowell continued to develop his work with sometimes uneven results, all along defining the restless center of American poetry, until his sudden death from a heart attack at age 60. Robert Lowell served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1962 until his death in 1977.

Read Robert Lowell’s 1960 Acceptance Speech

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