Frank Bidart and David Gewanter have compiled the definitive edition of Robert Lowell's work, from his first, impossible-to-find collection, Land of Unlikeness; to the early triumph of Lord Weary's Castle, winner of the 1946 Pulitzer Prize; to the brilliant willfulness of his versions of poems by Sappho, Baudelaire, Rilke, Montale, and other masters in Imitations; to the late spontaneity of The Dolphin, winner of another Pulitzer Prize; to his last, most searching book, Day by Day. This volume also includes poems and translations never previously collected, and a selection of drafts that demonstrate the poet's constant drive to reimagine his work. Collected Poems at last offers readers the opportunity to take in, in its entirety, one of the great careers in twentieth-century poetry.
Regardless of the current state of the poet's reputation or how often his name is bandied about by lesser lights, the magnitude of Lowell's achievement an achievement won against horrific odds can now come fully and magnificently into view. "We only live between / before we are and what we were," Lowell once wrote, but his work in this Collected Poems stands secure, timeless, outside the relatively brief span that was his bedeviled life. — Caroline Fraser