Robert Lowell (1917-1977) is a poet I became acquainted with by accident. I was trying to find a hymn I thought was by Robert Lowell—“The Angel’s Song”—only to realize later it was by Robert Lowry. Lowry is famous for hymns like, ”Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.”
Lowell, as I came to learn, was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet from the Boston area. His poems are dense and (for me anyway) difficult to unpack. Lowell’s topics range from personal to historical to political. Most are highly literary. Lowell struggled with bi-polar disorder and was hospitalized more than once, themes which also come up throughout his writings. Whatever the subject, Lowell’s poems tend to be shot through with feeling, and I think this is what I connect with most.
One of my favorite poems by Lowell is, not surprisingly, one of his most accessible. “For Sale” talks about a cottage that belonged to Lowell’s parents and is for sale just after his father died. This poem is full of the hush and fiat of death. The last few lines perfectly capture, not only the grief, but the sense of disorientation we can feel after someone dies:
Ready, afraid of living alone till eighty, Mother mooned in a window, as if she had stayed on a train one stop past her destination.
Reading between the lines, Lowell also explores the unresolved dysfunctions some are left with after there is a death in the family. You can read the full poem here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Poetry/comments/k0svxb/poem_for_sale_by_robert_lowell_from_life_studies/
“For Sale” is not long but well worth the read. I hope readers will check it out.