ROBERT LOWELL: The First Twenty Years by Hugh B. Staples

ROBERT LOWELL: The First Twenty Years

Email this review


Lowell is the major poet of his generation; he is also the most exciting. Both qualities are lacking in Hugh Staples' assessment. Staples, like a seminar scholar, is sympathetic, smart, sophisticated, painstaking. He road maps the local allusions (mostly Boston), psychological personalia (generally New England), appraises Lowell's debt to Europe, the Protestant ethic he inherited at birth and the Catholic dogmas he subsequently embraced, notes the poet's mysticism and Manicheanism (Land of Unlikeliness), his myth-packed metaphors and monologues (Mills of the Kavanaughs), dissects the networks of interlocking ironies, the elaborate patterns of ambivalence (which are seen in his synthesis and disintegration, faith and doubt, affirmation and rejection). Finally he sums up Life Studies, Lowell's latest and surely most agonizing work, with a certain imperceptiveness-- over a period of twenty years Lowell has gone from a posture of rebellion to a position of acceptance. As the first full-length treatment, Staples' book should be eagerly received, well reviewed, but the Lowell landscape definitely has much more drama and depth than the plodding, pioneering spade work turns up.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1962
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy