Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

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Robert Lowell (1917-1977) was the author of 16 books of poetry, one book of prose, and one drama, and he was also the editor of two anthologies. He went to Harvard College and graduated from Kenyon College, where he studied poetry. His graduate work was at Louisiana State University. Lowell became a conscientious objector during WWII, for which he was given time in prison. He did not let this stop him from taking a stand against war, however, and he went on to join protests against the Vietnam War. Lowell converted from Episcopalianism to Catholicism, and this life change had an effect on his first two poetry books, which also pointed out the corruption of Puritan America. He wrote extremely formally at first, keeping to strict, elegant meter in his poetry. He later began to write more confessional style poetry, perhaps as a result of his rocky psychological and emotional life filled with bouts of manic depression which also had a strain on his marital life. His switch to confessional poetry with less of an emphasis on strict form was quite powerful and influential to the poetry community, and his collection Life Studies (1959) is compared to Eliot’s revolutionary work The Waste Land. His second poetry book, Lord Weary’s Castle (1946), won the Pulitzer Prize, as did his sonnet book The Dolphin (1973). Life Studies won the National Book Award. Lowell also won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 and a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1947. He was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1947-1948. He also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1962 until his death from a heart attack in 1977. AND DC Writers' Homes: Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Volume 7:3, Summer 2006:

Written by Monica Root December 2013

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