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Life Studies and For the Union Dead (FSG Classics) Paperback – October 16, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: FSG Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374530963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374530969
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Robert Lowell is, by something like a critical consensus, the greatest American poet of the mid-century . . . More than any contemporary writer, poet, or novelist, Lowell has created the language, cool and violent all at once, of contemporary introspection." -Richard Poirier, Book Week
 
"Life Studies gives us the naked psyche of a suffering man in a hostile world, and Lowell's way to manage this material, to keep it, is by his insistent emphasis on form. The natural heir to Eliot and pound as well as to Crane, he extends their methods." -M. L. Rosenthal, Salamagundi

About the Author

Robert Lowell (1917-1977) was the author of a dozen volumes of poetry, for which he twice received the Pulitzer Prize.

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Customer Reviews

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I read the poems in this collection, but am not tempted to reread them.
Shalom Freedman
I didn't want to stop reading the book when it was over, and went back and started reading the poems again-- it was that compelling.
frumiousb
Robert Lowell is one of America's great poets and this collection demonstrates why his work remains powerful.
J. Smallridge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kendra on March 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this poem again on Martin Luther King Day, a fitting day for this poem, a tribute to the Union dead of the Civil War and a particular remembrance of the black soldiers who wore the uniform of the Union-- particularly of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment (made famous to non-Civil War students by the movie Glory several years ago).

The 54th Massachusetts was the first black regiment to march from the North to fight the Confederacy. These men were quite brave knowing that in battle they would likely get little or no quarter, and if captured they would most assuredly be sent south back to slavery. These men had much to prove, what with years of racism from North and South to be broken and defeated by their bravery and sacrifices-- not to mention the Confederate army that they would later face on the battlefield. They would win ever-lasting fame for their courage during their doomed assault on Fort Wagner at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, July, 1863. The attack would be a night assault on this heavily guarded fort. The fighting would be intense and the 54th would not be successful. Their white colonel, Robert Gould Shaw would be killed, and almost half the regiment would be lost. The first Medal of Honor for a black man would be earned there.

They marched down Beacon Street, with the Massachusetts State House on one side and Boston Common on the other - off to war, off to death and glory on a twin mission; to fight for the Union and show the world that they were equal in ability to whites. Directly across the street from the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street there now stands the brilliant monument by Augustus St. Gaudens, forever commemorating the 54th, the first black regiment and their white commander Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on December 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
For a long time, one of my favorite poems has been Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour", but I have never read the book which was the context around it. Lowell is one of those writers who are often pushed down your throat as being "The Most Important Poet Ever!" by college professors and I have to admit that this attitude lead me to resist reading further.
I want to say that this was a mistake, because of how much I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure how well I could have appreciated these poetry books had I been younger. They are not simple about anything they touch-- not histories (public or private), not love, not death, not depression. They are complicated words that are painted in detailed layers, so the richness gets deeper the longer you look. The setting is so subtle that when Lowell does say something overt, it comes as a distinct shock.
I didn't want to stop reading the book when it was over, and went back and started reading the poems again-- it was that compelling.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Frank Beck on November 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
In LIFE STUDIES, published in 1959, Lowell described his experiences growing up in a prominent Boston family, using a style so intimate and revealing that it became known as "confessional poetry." Four years later came FOR THE UNION DEAD, in which he used the same style to address social themes as well as personal ones. Together, these two books constitute a watershed in modern American poetry. In a host of poems, including "Beyond the Alps," "Skunk Hour," and "For the Union Dead," Lowell created a style that was colloquial and contemporary, but echoed the grandeur of a poetic tradition running back to Shakespeare. Of all the American poets to emerge since the war, few have had the wide-ranging influence of Lowell and a young student of his named Sylvia Plath. This is a book that every literate American should know.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "calico30" on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Lowell is of the vanguard of American twentieth century poets, a man who created many brilliant works other than the two joined in this volume. In such poems in Life Studies as Beyond the Alps and A Mad Negro Soldier Confined in Munich, as well as his portraits of various friends and family, we discover a man capable of both acid humor and outright sadness. However, in Life Studies, these excellent poems are overshadowed by the towering biographical essay 91 Revere Street. In this touching memoir, Lowell describes distant, illustrious relatives, Amy Lowell being a famous but ostracized example, friendships wrecked in childhood, disquietude over a girlfriend who soils herself in class (in his embarrassment, Lowell sits in it), his formative years on the periphery of polite, conservative Bostonian society, and his fathers coarse, difficult superiors and buddies that cropped up in the father's job with the Navy. Though his poems here are outstanding, an uncomfortable question arises when one considers this essay: Would Lowell have been better off to employ his time as a prose stylist, not a poet?
For the Union Dead validates Lowell's decision to declare poetry his mode of expression. Poems such as the dolorous My Last Evening with Uncle Devereaux Winslow and Terminal Days at Beverly Farm expose a man groping for hope after the deaths of close relatives; Waking in the Blue and Myopia: A night explore, respectively, Lowell's mental illness and attendant three month hospitalization, and a night of insomnia that becomes a maelstrom of tortured reflections and half-hewn thoughts; The Drinker explores alcoholism as a product of foiled love, with a question as to whether pathology or sheer carelessness and love of idleness is the underlying shibboleth.
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