March 3, 2017

Revaluation: Early Poems of Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell's poems that appeared in The Kenyon Review from its first number to its eighth provide a work-in-progress view of his early development. John Crowe Ransom showed high confidence in his protege's potential by printing two rather jejune poems by the twenty-year-old Kenyon student in Volume I, Number 1. These two poems, neither of which was later reprinted in Lord Weary's Castle, his first full-length collection, reveal several interesting things about the young poet's beginnings. One is that, technically, Lowell's particular poetic genius—unlike that of Ransom—did not function well within the narrow confines of the quatrain. His expansive energy expressed itself more naturally in the long verse-paragraphs he learned from Paradise Lost and would employ in his masterpiece, "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket." His first poem to appear in Kenyon Review (under the name R. T. S. Lowell), "The Cities' Summer Death," begins: The summer hospital enframesIn its fashiona

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Richard Tillinghast is the author of twelve books of poetry including, most recently, Selected Poems (2008) and Wayfaring Stranger (2012), as well as five non-fiction books: Finding Ireland (2008); An Armchair Traveller’s History of Istanbul (2012); Poetry and What Is Real (2004), and most recently, Journeys into the Mind of the World: A Book of Places (2017). Damaged Grandeur (1995), is a critical memoir of Robert Lowell, with whom he studied as a graduate student at Harvard in the mid-sixties. He divides his time between Sewanee, Tennessee, and Hawaii.

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