Grey Gowrie

Poor Passing Facts

Robert Lowell: A Biography

Faber & Faber 527pp £12.50 order from our bookshop

Asked to name the greatest American poet, Robert Lowell once replied ‘Milton’. The joke had a point to it. Contemporary English poets in the mainstream admire poets like Marvell or Robert Graves who set themselves limits and succeed within them. Ambition and scale are the American dream, the American hang-up. Added to the intensity of all good poetry, they take their toll in the lives of the makers. Ian Hamilton’s biography is best at considering the cost of Lowell’s achievement and a life, as the poet himself put it,

not avoiding injury to others,

not avoiding injury to myself –

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