Robert Lowell, Former UI Faculty

Prize Work: Lord Weary's Castle; Pulitzer Prize: 1947 Poetry

The Dolphin; Pulitzer Prize: 1974 Poetry

Robert LowellRobert Lowell (born 1917, died 1977) was an American author.

Author Biography - Robert Lowell was born in 1917 into one of Boston's oldest and most prominent families. He attended Harvard College for two years before transferring to Kenyon College, where he studied poetry under John Crowe Ransom and received an undergraduate degree in 1940. He took graduate courses at Louisiana State University where he studied with Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. His first and second books, Land of Unlikeness (1944) and Lord Weary's Castle (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize in 1947, at the age of thirty), were influenced by his conversion from Episcopalianism to Catholicism and explored the dark side of America's Puritan legacy. Under the influence of Allen Tate and the New Critics, he wrote rigorously formal poetry that drew praise for its exceptionally powerful handling of meter and rhyme. Lowell was politically involved—he became a conscientious objector during the Second World War and was imprisoned as a result, and actively protested against the war in Vietnam—and his personal life was full of marital and psychological turmoil. He suffered from severe episodes of manic depression, for which he was repeatedly hospitalized.

Partly in response to his frequent breakdowns, and partly due to the influence of such younger poets as W. D. Snodgrass and Allen Ginsberg, Lowell in the mid-fifties began to write more directly from personal experience, and loosened his adherence to traditional meter and form. The result was a watershed collection, Life Studies (1959), which forever changed the landscape of modern poetry, much as Eliot's The Waste Land had three decades before. Considered by many to be the most important poet in English of the second half of the twentieth century, Lowell continued to develop his work with sometimes uneven results, all along defining the restless center of American poetry, until his sudden death from a heart attack at age 60. Robert Lowell served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1962 until his death in 1977.


Learn More About Lowell's Prize Winning Work:

Lord Weary's Castle Lord Weary's Castle by Robert Lowell

Lord Weary's CastleBook Description
Lord Weary's Castle was written during a time of great change in Robert Lowell's life, when he was undergoing a conversion from Episcopalianism to Catholicism. This work, along with his first book, Land of Unlikeliness, was greatly influenced by his faith. Lowell began writing poetry in a very strict, metered form that earned him great praise from cirtics, and Lord Weary's Castle is an example of this style of poetry he was so revered for. As Lowell fought with manic-depression and bipolar disorder later in life, however, his style of poetry began to change, and his following work became much less concise, with increased emotional content and personal reflection.

Lord Weary's Castle earned Robert Lowell the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. It contains 42 collected poems and an introductory note. The title is said to be derived from a folk ballad, one entailing a Lord Weary who refuses to pay the stonemason who built his castle. In reatliation, the stonemason murders Lord Weary's wife and child. Lord Weary's castle acts as a symbol of ingratitude, crime, and punishment.

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Bibliography - Robert Lowell

Day by Day (1977)

For the Union Dead (1964)

Lord Weary's Castle (1946)

The Dolphin (1973)

The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951)

External Links on Robert Lowell