Robert Lowell

Of the many poets writing in the United States in recent years one of the most outstanding was Robert Lowell. Related as he was to such earlier American poets as Amy Lowell and James Russell Lowell, Robert Lowell came by his interest in poetry naturally. His first book of poems, Land of Unlikeness, was published in 1944. From this volume he selected the best poems, which he reworked and published as Lord Weary's Castle. This collection won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946. Other volumes of his poetry are: The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951), Life Studies (1959), and For the Union Dead (1964). Lowell taught at a number of schools, including Kenyon College, Boston University, and Harvard.

Lowell's earlier poems, especially those that appeared in Lord Weary's Castle, represented an involvement with the traditions of the poets of the generation of T.S. Eliot and Allen Tate. However, in both subject matter and language, his later poems seem a departure from these traditions and assume a more contemporary posture. Because of his early traditional approach and later divergence, Lowell was one of the most transitional of contemporary American poets.

Perhaps the chief characteristic of Lowell's poetry is its vitality. He never overelaborates about a feeling or thought just so that it will fill a poem, but instead packs the lines he writes with exuberant energy. Sometimes he may prove difficult to understand, yet he is not one who loves obscurity for its own sake. His rhyme and rhythm are regular, and the beat of his verses is strong; we can feel the pulse in them. When one of his rhymes is off or a rhythm is wrenched, it is for a poetic purpose.