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Lowell’s old flames

Crazy and brilliant, Robert Lowell long stood at the peak of American poetic mythology. His star then faltered, but not much was needed to revive it.

By Siobhan Phillips   August 2003

Book: Collected Poems Author: Robert Lowell Price: Faber, £40

At Robert Lowell’s funeral in Boston in 1977, there were 600 mourners; obituaries called him the best poet of his generation. Twenty-six years later, Lowell’s Collected Poems has finally been published, and the principal question for reviewers is the dip in Lowell’s poetic “stock”: the best-known American poet of his day has, in just decades, faded from view, curricula, canons, anthologies.

Vagaries of reputation are nothing new; we know that making the front page of the New York Times, or being called “the greatest poet writing in English,” as Lowell did…

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