How Lowell taught

Lloyd Schwartz recalls visiting Robert Lowell during office hours when Schwartz took Lowell’s class at Harvard:

Lowell was critical but rarely unkind. He was open-minded (discussing the disturbing subject matter — murder followed by the rape of a young girl — in Frank Bidart’s “Herbert White,” he said, “You can say anything in a poem, as long as you place it correctly”), though most of the poems people brought were not to his taste, which leaned toward richer, denser language than most younger poets were writing. And he didn’t much care for the personal “confessional” style, which some critics accused him of unleashing. But as Frank Bidart writes in his aferword to Lowell’s new Collected Poems, Lowell’s “confessional” mode was an illusion; he was more interested in the problem of finding a style that would allow him to incorporate autobiographical details than in the mere churning out of autobiography.

(Via Bookslut.)


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