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Reading Objects: Robert Lowell

Reading Objects: Robert Lowell

Chapter:
(p.24) Reading Objects: Robert Lowell
Source:
One Kind of Everything
Author(s):
Dan Chiasson
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226103846.003.0002

The work of Robert Lowell is marked by its pronounced use of autobiographical facts and by a profound, counterpointed skepticism about the poetic use of such facts. His career reads like an alternating conjuring, and subsequent repudiation, of the personal life. Lowell's use of autobiographical facts sparked an immediate scandal; among his contemporaries it was felt that excessive factuality violated the decorum of lyric poetry, a standard that modernism, with its emphasis on poetic impersonality, had reinforced. Later in Lowell's career, his critics' indictment of his excessive facticity seems to have been partly internalized—indeed his sublimely remorseful last poem, “Epilogue,” states the case against facticity most eloquently. This chapter examines how Lowell makes autobiography often literally hard to see. It focuses on three of his works: “Father's Bedroom,” “Blizzard in Cambridge,” and “For the Union Dead.”

Keywords:   Robert Lowell, factuality, lyric poetry, autobiography, Father's Bedroom, Blizzard in Cambridge

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