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Life Studies and For the Union Dead

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,038 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Robert Lowell, with Elizabeth Bishop, stands apart as the greatest American poet of the latter half of the twentieth century—and Life Studies and For the Union Dead stand as among his most important volumes. In Life Studies, which was first published in 1959, Lowell moved away from the formality of his earlier poems and started writing in a more confessional vein. The titl ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,650)
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Jun 18, 2009 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry lovers, fans of confessionalism
Shelves: poetry
This review is cross-posted from my blog, so forgive the rather overwhelming length.

I’ve been a bad, bad little aspiring poet. Naughtily, I’ve avoided reading a single collection of poetry—by a male writer—in all my years of writing, and, perhaps more criminally, done so even throughout the entirety of my undergraduate English experience. So I figure, hey, it’s time to catch up on my weaker points, as I head into graduate school; I order Robert Lowell and John Berryman, brush off the dust collec
May 18, 2007 Kristopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, classics
A deeply difficult work to penetrate. This is not for the reader who is looking for some relaxed reading, which isn't to say this is better than some relaxed reading. Lowell is an acquired taste and can be frustrating many times. But this is one of the most thoughtful and heartbreaking works when you've taken it in its entirety and worked through the themes he develops. Part of its intensity comes from what a finely constructed work it is. This man takes on his demons.
Steve Kettmann
Jun 24, 2016 Steve Kettmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weird to think that for a time in the '50s Lowell was the U.S. poet with the highest visibility. I'm sure he's still widely taught, but I never hear young people bringing him up to me, unlike, say, Robert Frost or Eliot. Lowell at times wanders off down hallways of wearing his learning on his sleeve, which was no doubt widely appreciated in real time, but does not hold up well. When he narrows down to a single day, a single feeling, the power of his language takes the miniaturist focus of his po ...more
May 06, 2014 Cade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can't call yourself a fan of the Confessionals without reading some Robert Lowell. A great of American poetry, the observations and story-telling in his poems is magnificent and truthful, and it takes me right to where he was as a poet, an American, and as a person. While he's not my favorite of the Confessionals (see: Anne Sexton), it's well worth the read if you are a fan of poetry, especially the poetry of the mid-20th century.
Kelly Evans
Feb 12, 2014 Kelly Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I read excerpts of this one five or so years ago, and it struck me as pretentious and insincere, but now that I'm a little bit wiser (or I fancy myself as such), it seems to be a raw yet measured response to living and dying. It is a deep-felt reaction to childhood and the memories that we carry with us for a lifetime, even as new, large, overwhelming experiences threaten to overtake those formative times. I think I'd like to revisit it again in another five years or so and see how my reaction h ...more
John Sebold
Dec 07, 2009 John Sebold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The poem, "For The Union Dead" is probably enough for me to give this collection at least 3 stars. I was hestitant to give the whole collection a 5...just because the beginning of Life Studies with the faux-Joycean Portrait of the Artist section is a little tedious. However, there are still some remarkable poems in here. From "Terminal Days at Beverly Farms" to my personal favorite, "Three Months Spent Away," Lowell's work can be filled with a numbing heartbreak at times. (I hate using the term, ...more
Terence Carlisle
"The season's ill ---"

The ur-text of Confessional poetry, the book that started it all. With “Life Studies,” Lowell opened up a whole new frontier for poetry and “fathered” a whole group of disciples/fellow inmates (see Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, etc.). Lowell’s particular stature in the American culture (he and his famous family were practically American royalty) gave these poems a great advantage …as Elizabeth Bishop ruefully put it to him, “I could write in as much detail about my Uncle Artie
Kristi Thompson
Mar 18, 2009 Kristi Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Plugged away at this off and on over a few weeks, reading it on coffee breaks at Starbucks, lunch hour in Frist, buses. Not with my comfort reading at home in the bath. Finally finished it today while waiting for a bus at the mall.

Interesting. Bits of masculine emotion and childhood I had difficulty relating to, bits of history I liked, faintly religious musings I was fascinated by, and at the very end some moments from a breakdown, and after, that justified the entire boof to me and made me und
Justin Evans
I have two problems reading poetry: first, 'Selected Poems' are always too long, but also rarely representative; second, 'Collected Poems' are always way too long; third, individual books of poetry always contain more crap than gem. This confirms my hard-won insights. Lowell's best poems are really, really great- in this book I recommend Beyond the Alps, During Fever, Man and Wife, Skunk Hour; Middle Age, Those Before Us, Eye and Tooth, Law, The Drinker, Jonathan Edwards, Caligula, For the Union ...more
Jun 19, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The Mouth of the Hudson being my favorite, when in top form these poems wilt the world, others are a bit obscure.
Mar 21, 2015 h rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, anthology, 2015
3.5 stars. Oh, Skunk Hour. how i enjoy you.
Christine D
Aug 20, 2013 Christine D rated it did not like it
I realize I'm going to get blasted for giving this book such a poor rating. I was assigned this book for class, and while my poetry is equally depressing, the only way I could get through this assignment without offing myself was to relax with it in the pool and hot tub in Las Vegas with a frozen strawberry margarita full of substantial tequila shots, then garnished with more tequila, that no one in their right mind should drink alone, but it got me through the book. Maybe I can appreciate it fo ...more
Arthur Kyriazis
May 23, 2016 Arthur Kyriazis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jul 13, 2016 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
I don't normally read too much poetry, mainly because I don't overly enjoy it. But since I had to for one of my courses, I read this one. It was interesting how it was written. I enjoyed that it was about his life and about specific people he knew from his life. I don't really have too much to say about this book of poetry.

If you enjoy reading poetry, I recommend you picking this book up and giving it a read.
Dec 10, 2015 Adria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hush-hush, Hush-hush, whispered the snowflakes as big as street lamps
Mar 11, 2008 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This landmark collection of work is filled with amazing use of rhyme and voice, as well as poems that feel monumentally influential to modern poetry. Besides showing an expertise in seamless end rhymes, Lowell began his shift to free verse and slant rhyme in these poems, and his use of both can still be seen as innovative today.
Tse Guang
Dec 25, 2013 Tse Guang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can sense the manic energy behind the references to Ford Maddox Ford and other people of that time and place. Life Studies is particularly interesting and gives an alternative vision of what autobiographical poetry might look like. Occasional forays into depression aside, Lowell's poetry crackles with texture.
Seth Messinger
I'm not that great a poetry reader & I'll confess I thought it was boring and self involved at times (of course that sounds silly given that Lowell is a confessional poet). But, some of it really shined for me, especially the memoir sections (I realize that moments ago I complained about self involvement.
Liza Bolitzer
Aug 14, 2007 Liza Bolitzer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has been my favorite collection of poetry for the last seven years, read together it is brilliant even though the individual poems do not all stand alone. Actually, i think that quality it precisely what I like about it.
May 24, 2016 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as hot on Life Studies, but For the Union Dead was weird, dreamlike, sad and moving. Life Studies more just sad, although there are some moving moments in it too.
Sara Sams
Mar 25, 2012 Sara Sams rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mfaing, poemz
"None of these poems struck me as failures but I am also having a hard time remembering them." Glad I finally read these... important, sure.
Jul 27, 2007 Jenni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poets
To me, "Life Studies" is Lowell's best book, along with "Day by Day," but the title poem of "For the Union Dead" is again, to me, his best poem.
Jul 30, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great, snarky, blue-blooded poet. If you've ever lived in Boston, or had a family that drove you nuts, read this.
Catherine Hogan
Jun 18, 2008 Catherine Hogan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is my favorite book of poetry,
"these victorious figures of bravado ossified young."
Christian Patterson
some poems in here are 1, some are 5 for me
May 08, 2008 Sandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, poetry
Poems. Book Club. Hal's recommendation.
Max  Heinegg
Dec 19, 2007 Max Heinegg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best poet in this style since Eliot
Gary McDowell
Aug 13, 2007 Gary McDowell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ho-hum
Sorry, but this book bores me to tears.
Seth Miller
Jun 11, 2008 Seth Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
motherfucker can write some POETRY.
Chase marked it as to-read
Jul 22, 2016
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  • Geography III
  • The Dream Songs
  • The Complete Poems
  • What Work Is
  • Contemporary American Poetry
  • The Branch Will Not Break
  • In the Western Night: Collected Poems, 1965-1990
  • Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge
  • The Country Between Us
  • Sun Under Wood
  • Here, Bullet
  • The Collected Poems
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • Sweet Machine
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees (Revised Edition)
  • The Man With Night Sweats
Robert Lowell, born Robert Traill Spence Lowell, IV, was an American poet whose works, confessional in nature, engaged with the questions of history and probed the dark recesses of the self. He is generally considered to be among the greatest American poets of the twentieth century.

His first and second books, Land of Unlikeness (1944) and Lord Weary's Castle (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize
More about Robert Lowell...

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