Robert Lowell's Selected Poems is an event; no doubt about that. This most honored of living poets is also considered the most representative and authoritative of our literary figures, a maker and chronicler of contemporary consciousness--indeed, the successor to Eliot. The underlying theme of the early poems was that of temporality, of ""Time and the grindstone and the knife of God."" Set against a number of opposing forces--innocence and corruption, liberation and constriction--Lowell's aggressive metrics and prophetic religiosity wrought finely balanced, if dissonant, landscapes of a puritan past and a heathen present, The youthful work was peculiarly arresting, both for the integrity of the poet's despair and the awful moral rigor which illuminated it. Later, with Life Studies, Lowell depressurized his style and gave us the famous confessional poems of the late Fifties, suffused with humor as much as with scandal. His own ""vulnerable humanity,"" as Randall Jarrell observed, seemed at last to have been forced in on him. Since then, however, while still preserving his characteristic elegiac and ironic strains, Lowell's world has grown increasingly notational, a commentary on himself and the times rather than a dramatization. At every stage of his development he has always had his own tone; he has wit, range, a wonderful particularity in the use of details, a wry tenderness and poignance. But does his work as a whole really reveal the quality of imaginative art to the degree that has generally been assumed? One suspects the publication of the Selected Poems will bring a revaluation of Lowell's work.