For Robert Lowell, on His Birthday

robert lowellRobert Lowell has for years been one of my favorite poets–one of those writers who’s books stay at my bedside. The pages are dogeared and scribbled on, words underlined. I love how he paces a poem, pulling the reader along like a show horse at a demonstration, jumping rails or pits along the way. I’ve also always been bothered by how some critics dismissed him as a confessional poet because he wrote about his own life, the tragedies and depressions. Sure, that’s subject matter, but that ignores what a fine craftsman he was, one of the finest at tying tightly wound knots in his lines and beautifully evocative images. He was also a master an tossing out a direct hit in the face straight line (“I myself am hell.” or “My mind’s not right.”)

Anyway, he would have been 94 today. Here are readings of a few of his most well-known poems. The last one is a reading performed by my friend and former teacher, Rafey Habib.