Robert Lowell, a poet of remarkable verbal skills, intellectual gifts, and personal wounds, dominated American poetry from the 1940s through the 1970s. His work as a public poet, a ‘confessional’ poet, and a meditative poet is remembered today as a central, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the literary history of post-war America. He helped define his era, and his achievement has had rippling effects on poetry ever since. Lowell transformed English-language poetry at several different points in his career. He first made his mark with his two initial volumes of poetry, Land of Unlikeness (1944) and Lord Weary’s Castle (1946). These volumes seemed to Allen Tate and Randall Jarrell to portend a new style of poetry – traditional in form, complex in style, critical in social perspective, and, according to Jarrell, ‘post-modern’ in ethos.1 Lord Weary’s Castle, in particular, was a turning point: it could be seen as one kind of culmination of the modernist project or, conversely, as an effort to discover a successor poetics.
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