Robert Lowell

How Robert Lowell Turned Words Into Art

Henri Cole explains the poet's genius

In 1976 the 92nd Street Y recorded Robert Lowell reading some of his poetry. It was, in short, a masterpiece. 

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Lasting Man

Saul Bellow: Letters Edited by Benjamin Taylor (Viking, 571 pp., $35) How easy it is, and plausible, to regard a collection of letters spanning youth and old age as an approximation of autobiography: the procession of denizens who inhabit a life, the bit players with their entrances and exits, the faithful chronology of incidents—all turn up reliably in either form, whether dated and posted or backward-looking. Yet autobiography, even when ostensibly steeped in candor, tends toward reconsideration—if not revisionary paperings-over, then late perspectives, afterwords, and second thoughts.

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The Prophet's Pen

A Literary Bible David Rosenberg Counterpoint, $30 The quickest way to understand the audacity and originality of what David Rosenberg is attempting in A Literary Bible, the big book of his selected translations from the Hebrew Bible, is to read the introduction to his excerpt from the book of Jeremiah. To countless generations of Bible readers, Jeremiah has been a prophet—indeed, the Hebrew prophet par excellence, his very name a synonym for warning, chastising, and exhorting.

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A Lonely Kind of Courage

Elizabeth D. Samet, a professor of English at the U.S. Military Academy, has written a beautiful piece for us about the scene within Eisenhower Hall last night. The first paragraphs are below, but we strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. When, at 6:15 pm--known in local parlance as 1815--coveted ticket in hand, I boarded a bus with various members of the West Point community for the short ride to Eisenhower Hall to listen to President Obama, I thought about how very early we would be. But “Ike,” the second largest U.S.

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When, at 6:15 pm--known in local parlance as 1815--coveted ticket in hand, I boarded a bus with various members of the West Point community for the short ride to Eisenhower Hall to listen to President Obama, I thought about how very early we would be. But “Ike,” the second largest U.S. theater east of the Mississippi (only Radio City is bigger), was already full: cadets, over four thousand strong, had been there for hours. Body heat and a distinctive hum rose from the undulating dress-gray sea.

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Arthur Miller By Christopher Bigsby (Harvard University Press, 739 pp., $35) I. Arthur Miller could hardly have hoped for a more sympathetic biographer than Christopher Bigsby. He is the director of the Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies at the University of East Anglia, and the author of a long commentary on Miller’s work and a book-length interview with the playwright.

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Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell Edited by Thomas Travisano with Saskia Hamilton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 845 pp., $40) '"Your poem came to the right buyer," Robert Lowell wrote to Elizabeth Bishop during the spring of 1976 after receiving "One Art," the nineteen lines that Bishop called "the one & only villanelle of my life." Composed in a tightly repetitive form inherited from the troubadours of the late Renaissance, "One Art" may be the best known, most anthologized American poem of the past half-century.

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Alfred Kazin: A Biography By Richard M. Cook (Yale University Press, 452 pp., $35) I. Alfred Kazin had one great, abiding subject. He wanted to tell the world what it felt like to become a writer in mid-century America. In three autobiographical volumes published over a period of a quartercentury, he dug so deep into his own life story, which had begun in hardscrabble Brooklyn and climaxed in the glamorous Manhattan of the 1960s, that he managed to tell the story of an entire generation.

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Hamalot

  The elect and the elected, Robert Lowell said in "Washington in Spring," come here bright as dimes, and stay until they are soft and disheveled. As if acting out the line, there was Edward Moore Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, conjuring feelings of sympathy and support for Judge Bork every time he intervened. There is hardly a personal tragedy in the husk that he has so patently become, because there never was enough of a nut inside it for even a squirrel to nibble on.

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What should we make of Salinger's attempt to block publication of a slim biography?

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