Gathered on the occasion of Robert Lowell’s one hundredth birthday, New Selected Poems offers a fresh and illuminating representation of one of the great careers in twentieth-century poetry. The renowned and controversial author of many books of poems, plays, and translations, Lowell was one of the United States’ most honoured poets, winning the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1947 and 1974, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His ongoing interrogation of his family legacy, his personal struggle with manic depression, and his mastery of the tradition of poetry in English formed the groundbreaking autobiographical foundation of Life Studies (1959) and the books that followed it, including For the Union Dead (1964), Near the Ocean (1967), History (1973), and Day by Day (1977).
Katie Peterson’s incisive selection of Lowell’s poems draws attention to ‘the perishability of life, its twinned quality of fragility and repetition, as framed by the structured evanescence of daily consciousness.’ Lowell’s own intense dramas and struggles are the substrate he drew on in his restless search to make sense of, and fix, shape-shifting experience – not his, but ours. As Peterson says, Lowell was ‘constitutionally immune to any stultifying permanence either of form or of spirit.’ Her brilliant new reading of Lowell shows us his work constantly breaking, renewing, transforming, as he strives restlessly, over and over, to find an elusive unity.
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