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Robert Lowell

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Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell (March 1, 1917September 12, 1977), born Robert Traill Spence Lowell, Jr., was an American Confessionalist poet known for inspiring and teaching several literary superstars of the 1950s and 1960s, including Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. He was part of the Brahmin Lowell family and attended Harvard University but transferred to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, from where he graduated, to study under the great American critic, John Crowe Ransom. He was hospitalized approximately 20 times for acute mania, and characterized one of his manic episodes as a "magical orange grove in a nightmare" He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Lowell is buried in Stark Cemetery, Dunbarton Center, New Hampshire.

Lowell's first two books of poetry, Lord Weary's Castle and Land of Unlikeness, more properly belonged to the formalist school of poetry, and were widely acclaimed. With his 1959 volume Life Studies, however, he moved firmly into the confessionalist mode. Life Studies is best known for the oft-reprinted poem "Skunk Hour," a poem that is primarily a description of a fading New England town, punctuated by two stanzas of what was, at the time, shocking personal confession, such as the declaration that "My mind's not right." Life Studies is widely viewed as one of the most influential and important books of poetry in the 20th century.

He followed Life Studies with For the Union Dead, which was also widely praised, particularly for its title poem. Following this book, however, Lowell's poetry became less and less popular and noticed. A minor controversy erupted when he incorporated private letters from his ex-wife into his poems. He was particularly criticized by his friend Elizabeth Bishop for this.

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