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Life Studies

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  223 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Life Studies is the fourth book of poems by Robert Lowell. Most critics (including Helen Vendler, Steven Gould Axelrod, Adam Kirsch, and others) consider it one of Lowell's most important books, and the Academy of American Poets named it one of their Groundbreaking Books. Helen Vendler called Life Studies Lowell's "most original book." It won the National Book Award for Po ...more
Hardcover, 90 pages
Published 1959 by Farrar, Straus and Cedahy
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Rupert Psmith
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
After the impressive sonorities of the opening formal poems, you'll have to endure Lowell's spate of incomprehensibly published prose nostalgia in order to get to the fourth and final section of Life Studies, which made the book, deservedly so, one of the indispensable volumes of twentieth century poetry.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
These are incredible. The best of the spring fruit.
Robert Lashley
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Like the poetry and the genre he created, Robert Lowell’s Life Studies is torn by its polarities. Published in 1959, the book is considered to be the birth of confessional poetry, shocking readers with dishy personal observations and a language that could be traditional yet deliciously nervy. Today, Life Studies reads like a great writer struggling for his soul; an artist adept in language and rhetoric veering between impulses of humanism and self-destruction. Gradually, Lowell would lose this s ...more
Rich Law
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a unique collection in that I can't recall ever reading another where you see the poet's poetics transform linearly. Here, you see Lowell move from traditional formal verse to more confessional free verse forms. The problem is that the quality of the latter verse far exceeds the former.
Parts one and two of the book feel terribly stiff and insular. Parts 3 and 4 - subtitled 'Life Studies' - are where Lowell's own music comes into play. In truth, the standout poems here are the familiar an
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, male-writer
I read Life Studies because I recently picked up Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and I wanted to read some of both writer's poetry before I read their correspondence. I also read a lot of biographies about writers like Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman and The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston from Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath which mentioned a lot about Lowell, even if they weren't primarily about him. There is also Anne Sexton's poem about ...more
christopher leibow
Life Studies is a naked view of a man confessing his suffering to the world. I found these poems wonderfully accurate and imagistically beautiful. The poems of memory, and perspective are an amazing achievement. Lowell’s ability to look at events from the perspective of an adult remembers and interprets the experience and the child that experienced it, is quiet amazing. I have been dwelling on the images of the young child speaker in My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereaux Winslow, “One of my han ...more
Andrew Wright
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This is an amazing book of poetry (and some brief prose). I don't think I've enjoyed any verse this much in years. Lowell's poems are funny while remaining macabre and serious. They're beautiful and sophisticated while remaining tangible and colloquial. At the end of this book I feel as though I know the entire Lowell family so well, through Robert's infancy well into the family's inevitable, though poignant, demise.
Oye Aborishade
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My opinion maybe swayed as I can relate to some of the poems on a very personal level.
Despite that, his use of the English language and imagery is second to none, he incorporates the 'raw and cooked' poetry with a brave autobiographical style that has influenced and inspired.

I dislike the term 'Confessional Poetry' I might add
Favourites: Home after Three Months Away- Skunk Hour- Memories of West and Lepke- Man and Wife
Andrew Boomhower
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was ok


Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Mad Boston Catholic sifts through impossibly detailed childhood memories and self-aggrandizing oral family histories to fashion a mirror to his own private pathos from a tender, damning portrait of his father as a dreamy misfit failure.
May 28, 2009 rated it liked it
My god how had I remembered liking this more? What did I fall in love with here at 15? I still like Lowell's willingness to mention certain unmentionables about his family, and of course Skunk Hour is a terrific poem, but much of the rest is bad prosy plodding.
Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry-poetics
I've been told I'll appreciate this book more once I'm 40. Maybe so. I see it as a genre-defining work, but not really as pleasure reading, though I enjoyed parts of the prose piece and most of the "Life Studies" poems.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Am I wrong to think of Lowell as in the way of Whitman more than in the way of Dickinson? I really liked these poems. I have read a lot of poetry these past couple of years. This is magnificent and strange and took a long time to read.
Karina Lickorish
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, poetry
Beautiful poetry that manages to both reflect the trials and personal experiences of the writer (or at least seem to) and to capture the paradoxes of the psyche of 20th century America. I really love Part IV of the collection.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the older i agree with harold the more i hes obtuse they are
Charles Seluzicki
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Revisiting a revolutionary book which seems more eccentric and brilliant with time-
Alec Sieber
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lowell's prose is solid and his poetry is delightful, even sublime.
Ryan Williams
Nov 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
stephanie roberts
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: poets
Shelves: poetry
(coming soon)
Mar 02, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
said to be the first book of confessional poetry.
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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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“We are all old-timers,
each of us holds a locked razor.”
“Dearest, I cannot loiter here
in lather like a polar bear.”
More quotes…