Robert 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.