Farrar. Aug. 2022. 400p. ed. by Steven Gould Axelrod & Grzegorz Kosc. ISBN 9780374258924. $35. LIT
After a series of mental breakdowns and brief stints in hospitals, Lowell, one of the most celebrated American poets of the mid-20th century, began work on an autobiography. Only a small portion of that work was ever published in his lifetime. This volume gathers several unpublished chapters and some literary profiles into a kind of impressionistic autobiography. For continuity, each section begins with an introduction providing historical and biographical context. The profiles of modern writers (Frost, Pound, Ford, Eliot, Williams, Plath, Sexton, etc.) are charming and sometimes beautiful in their clarity and simplicity. This section is a trove to be treasured by any reader of American modernism. However, the previously unpublished sections feel raw, unfinished, and slightly exhausted (and exhausting). These memoir chapters too often feel like curiosities best suited to the scholar researching Lowell or his milieu. They rarely achieve the energy needed to hold the attention of anyone but a scholar. Lowell, a father of confessional poetry, was quite a towering presence in his prime. And yet, it is perhaps the glow of his renown fading so abruptly that has left him seeming now lost in his own shadow.
VERDICT Recommended for academic libraries.
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