Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 21 (Robert Lowell)

Selected Poems
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Lowell, Robert
Selected Poems

I think I may have bought this at The Strand around the time I graduated from college. I am not sure why I bought it. I can usually remember some impetus, especially for a book by a poet I don't much like.

I don't ever remember reading Lowell in college. I do remember taking a course on Anglo-Irish Literature, or something like that, in which we read a lot of Seamus Heaney, and that Heaney wrote an essay or review of Lowell that we read for the class. That may be where I heard about him.

I feel no particular fondness for his work. I find it mostly depressing, claustrophobic, narcissistic.

I always found that quip Lowell was supposed to have made at a reading with Frank O'Hara hilarious and also telling. Apparently O'Hara read a poem he'd written on the way to the reading and told the audience he'd done so. When it was his turn to read, Lowell supposedly stood up and said something to the effect of, "I did NOT write this on the way to the reading."

from Selected Poems

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"

"It is the future generation that presses into being by means of
these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours."


"The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.
Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.
My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,
and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,
free-lancing out along the razor's edge.
This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge.
Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . .
It's the injustice . . . he is so unjust—
whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five.
My only thought is how to keep alive.
What makes him tick? Each night now I tie
ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . .
Gored by the climacteric of his want,
he stalls above me like an elephant."

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