|Born||Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV
March 1, 1917
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
|Died||September 12, 1977
New York, New York City, United States
|Literary movement||Confessional poetry|
|Notable work(s)||Lord Weary's Castle, Life Studies, For the Union Dead|
|Spouse(s)||Jean Stafford (1940-1948; divorced)
Elizabeth Hardwick (1949-1972; divorced)
Caroline Blackwood (1972-1977; his death)
|Children||Harriet Lowell, Sheridan Lowell, Ivana Lowell (stepdaughter)|
|Relative(s)||Amy Lowell, James Russell Lowell, Charles Russell Lowell|
Robert "Cal" Traill Spence Lowell IV (March 1, 1917 – September 12, 1977) was an American poet, considered to be one of the founders of the confessional poetry movement. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress where he served from 1947 until 1948. He won the Pulitzer Prize in both 1947 and 1974, the National Book Award in 1960, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977. He is "widely considered one of the most important American poets of the postwar era." 
Family history 
Lowell was born to Commander Robert Traill Spencer Lowell III and Charlotte (née Winslow) in Boston, Massachusetts. The Lowells were a Boston Brahmin family that included poets Amy Lowell and James Russell Lowell; clergymen Charles Russell Lowell, Sr. and Robert Traill Spence Lowell; Civil War general and war hero Charles Russell Lowell (whom Lowell wrote about in his poem "Charles Russell Lowell: 1835-1864"); and the Federal Judge John Lowell.
His mother was a descendant of William Samuel Johnson, a signer of the United States Constitution; Jonathan Edwards, the famed Calvinist theologian (whom Lowell wrote about in his poems "Mr. Edwards and the Spider," "Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts," "After the Surprising Conversions," and "The Worst Sinner"); Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan preacher and healer; Robert Livingston the Elder (who was also an ancestor on Lowell's paternal side); Thomas Dudley, the second governor of Massachusetts; and Mayflower passengers James Chilton and his daughter Mary Chilton.
As well as a family history steeped in Protestantism, Lowell had notable Jewish ancestors on both sides of his family, which he discusses in Part II ("91 Revere Street") of Life Studies. On his father's side, Lowell was the great-great-grandson of Maj. Mordecai Myers (father of Theodorus Bailey Myers, Lowell's great-granduncle), a soldier in the War of 1812 and later Mayor of Kinderhook and Schenectady; and on his mother's side, he is descended from the Mordecai family of Raleigh, North Carolina, who were prominent in state affairs.
Early years 
As a youth, Lowell had a penchant for violence and bullying other children. As a teenager, Lowell's peers gave him the nickname "Cal" after the tyrannical Roman emperor Caligula, and the nickname stuck with him throughout his life. Lowell would later reference the nickname in his poem "Caligula," first published in his book For the Union Dead and later republished in a revised sonnet version for his book Notebook 1967-1968.
Lowell received his high school education at St. Mark's School, a prominent prep-school in Southborough, Massachusetts, where he met and was influenced by the poet Richard Eberhart who taught at the school. It was in high school that Lowell decided that he wanted to become a poet. After high school, he attended Harvard College for two years. While he was a freshman at Harvard, he visited Robert Frost in Cambridge and asked for feedback on a long poem he'd written on the Crusades; Frost suggested that he needed to work on his compression. In an interview, Lowell recalled, "I had a huge blank verse epic on the First Crusade and took it to him all in my uncipherable pencil-writing, and he read a little of it, and said, 'It goes on rather a bit, doesn't it?' And then he read me the opening of Keats's 'Hyperion,' the first version, and I thought all of that was sublime." After two years, Lowell transferred to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, to study under John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate.
Before arriving at Kenyon, Lowell asked Allen Tate if he could live with him, and Tate joked that if Lowell wanted to, he could pitch a tent on his lawn; this is exactly what Lowell did. In an interview for The Paris Review, Lowell stated that he went to Sears, Roebuck to purchase the "pup tent" that he set up on Tate's lawn and lived in for two months. Lowell called the act "a terrible piece of youthful callousness." Fortunately for Tate and his wife, Lowell soon settled into the so-called "writer's house" (a dorm that received its nickname after it had accrued a number of ambitious young writers) with fellow students Peter Taylor, Robie Macauley and Randall Jarrell.
Partly in rebellion against his parents, he converted from Episcopalianism to Catholicism (however, by the end of the forties, he would end up leaving the Catholic Church). After Lowell graduated from Kenyon in 1940 with a degree in Classics, he worked on a Masters degree in English literature at Louisiana State University for one year before the United States entered World War II.
Lowell was a conscientious objector during World War II and served several months at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. He explained his decision not to serve in World War II in a letter addressed to President Franklin Roosevelt on September 7, 1943, stating, "Dear Mr President: I very much regret that I must refuse the opportunity you offer me in your communication of August 6, 1943 for service in the Armed Force." In the letter, he goes on to explain that after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, he was prepared to fight in the war until he read about the United States' terms of unconditional surrender which he feared would lead to the "permanent destruction of Germany and Japan."  Before Lowell was transferred to the prison in Connecticut, he was held in a prison in New York City which he later wrote about in the poem "Memories of West Street and Lepke" from his book Life Studies.
From 1950 to 1953, Lowell taught in the well-reputed Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, together with Paul Engle, Robie Macauley, and Anthony Hecht. Later, Donald James Winslow hired Lowell to teach at Boston University, where his students included the poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Over the years, he taught at a number of other universities including the University of Cincinnati, Yale University, Harvard University, and the New School for Social Research. Numerous poets, critics and scholars, including Kathleen Spivack, James Atlas, Helen Vendler, and Dudley Young have written essays about Lowell's teaching style and/or about his influence over their lives. In 2012, Spivack also published a book, With Robert Lowell and His Circle (2012), about her experience studying with Lowell at Boston University in 1959.
In a 1962 interview with Peter Orr, Sylvia Plath specifically cited Lowell's book Life Studies as having had a profound influence over the poetry she was writing at that time (and which her husband, Ted Hughes, would publish posthumously as Ariel a few years later), stating, "I've been very excited by what I feel is the new breakthrough that came with, say, Robert Lowell's Life Studies, this intense breakthrough into very serious, very personal, emotional experience which I feel has been partly taboo. Robert Lowell's poems about his experience in a mental hospital, for example, interested me very much."
In March 2005, the Academy of American Poets named Life Studies one of their Groundbreaking Books of the 20th century, stating that it had "a profound impact," particularly over the confessional poetry movement which the book helped launch. In an essay published in 1985, the poet Stanley Kunitz wrote, "Life Studies. . .[was] perhaps the most influential book of modern verse since T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land." 
During the late 1960s Lowell was active in the civil rights movement and opposed the US involvement in Vietnam. His participation in the October 1967 peace march in Washington, DC and his subsequent arrest would be described in the early sections of Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night. In that book, Mailer wrote, "[Lowell spoke] in his fine stammering voice which gave the impression that life rushed at him in a series of hurdles and some he succeeded in jumping and some he did not." He also wrote that "all flaws considered, Lowell was still a fine, good, and honorable man."
In 1964, Lowell stated, "The poets who most directly influenced me . . .were Allen Tate, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams. An unlikely combination!. . .but you can see that Bishop is a sort of bridge between Tate's formalism and Williams's informal art."
By 1967, he was the most public, well-known American poet; in June, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine as part of a lengthy cover story on American poetry in which he was praised as "the best American poet of his generation." Although the article gave a general overview of modern American poetry (mentioning Lowell's contemporaries like John Berryman and Elizabeth Bishop), Lowell's life, career, and place in the American literary canon remained the article's focus.
Lowell married the novelist Jean Stafford in 1940. Before their marriage, in 1938, Lowell and Stafford got into a serious car accident, in which Lowell was at the wheel, that left Stafford permanently scarred, while Lowell walked away unscathed. The couple had a tumultuous marriage that ended in 1948. The poet Anthony Hecht characterized the marriage as "a tormented and tormenting one." Then, shortly thereafter, in 1949 Lowell married the writer Elizabeth Hardwick with whom he had a daughter, Harriet, in 1957. Later, the press would characterize their marriage as "restless and emotionally harrowing."  After 23 years of marriage to Elizabeth Hardwick, in 1970, Lowell left her for the British author Lady Caroline Blackwood. Blackwood and Lowell were married in 1972 in England where they decided to settle and where they raised their son, Sheridan. Lowell also became the stepfather to Blackwood's young daughter, Ivana, for whom he would write the sonnet "Ivana," published in his book The Dolphin.
Lowell had a close friendship with the poet Elizabeth Bishop that lasted from 1947 until Lowell's death in 1977. Both writers relied upon one another for critiques of their poetry (which is in evidence in their voluminous correspondence, published in the book Words in Air: the Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell in 2008) and thereby influenced one another's work. Bishop's influence over Lowell can be seen at work in at least two of Lowell's poems: "The Scream" (inspired by Bishop's short story "In the Village") and "Skunk Hour" (inspired by Bishop's poem "The Armadillo").
Lowell also maintained a close friendship with the previously mentioned poet/critic Randall Jarrell from the time when they met at Kenyon College in 1937 until Jarrell's death in 1965. Lowell openly acknowledged Jarrell's influence over his writing and frequently sought out Jarrell's input regarding his poems before he published them. In a letter to Jarrell from 1957, Lowell wrote, "I suppose we shouldn't swap too many compliments, but I am heavily in your debt." 
Lowell suffered from manic depression and was hospitalized many times throughout his adult life for this mental illness. Although his manic depression was often a great burden (for himself and his family), the subject of that mental illness led to some of his most important poetry, particularly as it manifested itself in his book Life Studies. When he was fifty, Lowell began taking lithium to treat his mental illness. The editor of Lowell's Letters, Saskia Hamilton notes, "Lithium treatment relieved him from suffering the idea that he was morally and emotionally responsible for the fact that he relapsed. However, it did not entirely prevent relapses. . .And he was troubled and anxious about the impact of his relapses on his family and friends until the end of his life." 
Lowell died in 1977, having suffered a heart attack in a cab in New York City on his way to see his ex-wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. He was buried in Stark Cemetery, Dunbarton, New Hampshire.
Lowell's first book of poems, Land of Unlikeness (1944), did not receive much attention. However, in 1946, Lowell received wide acclaim for his next book, Lord Weary's Castle, which included five poems slightly revised from Land of Unlikeness, plus thirty new poems. Among the better known poems in the volume are "Mr Edwards and the Spider" and "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket." Lord Weary's Castle was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. Randall Jarrell praised the book, writing, "It is unusually difficult to say which are the best poems in Lord Weary's Castle: several are realized past changing, successes that vary only in scope and intensity--others are poems that almost any living poet would be pleased to have written. . .[and] one or two of these poems, I think, will be read as long as men remember English."
Lowell's early poems were formal, ornate, and concerned with violence and theology; a typical example is the close of "The Quaker Graveyard" -- "You could cut the brackish winds with a knife / Here in Nantucket and cast up the time / When the Lord God formed man from the sea's slime / And breathed into his face the breath of life, / And the blue-lung'd combers lumbered to the kill. / The Lord survives the rainbow of His will." He was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1947−1948 (a position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate).
In 1950, Lowell was included in the influential anthology Mid-Century American Poets as one of the key literary figures of his generation. Among his contemporaries who also appeared in that book were Muriel Rukeyser, Karl Shapiro, Elizabeth Bishop, Theodore Roethke, Randall Jarrell, and John Ciardi, all poets who came into prominence in the 1940s.
In 1951, Lowell published The Mills of the Kavanaughs which centered on its epic title poem and which failed to receive the high praise that his previous book had received. Following the disappointing reception of The Mills of the Kavanaughs, Lowell hit a creative roadblock and took a long break from publishing. However, by the end of the decade, he started writing again and was able to revive his reputation with Life Studies (1959) which won the National Book Award for poetry in 1960 and became the most influential book that Lowell would ever publish. In his acceptance speech for the National Book Award, Lowell famously divided American poetry into two camps: the "cooked" and the "raw." This commentary by Lowell was made in reference to the popularity of Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation poets and was a signal from Lowell that he was trying to incorporate some of their "raw" energy into his own poetry.
The poems in Life Studies were written in a mix of free and metered verse, with much more informal language than he had used in his first three books. It marked both a big turning point in Lowell's career, and a turning point for American poetry in general. Because many of the poems documented details from Lowell's family life and personal problems, one critic, M.L. Rosenthal, labeled these poems "confessional." Lowell's editor and friend Frank Bidart notes in his afterword to Lowell's Collected Poems, "Lowell is widely, perhaps indelibly associated with the term 'confessional,'" though Bidart questions the accuracy of this label. But for better or worse, this label stuck and led to Lowell being grouped together with other influential confessional poets like Lowell's former students W. D. Snodgrass, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton.
Lowell followed Life Studies with Imitations (1961), a volume of loose translations of poems by classical and modern European poets, including Rilke, Montale, Baudelaire, Pasternak, and Rimbaud, for which he received the 1962 Bollingen Poetry Translation Prize. However, critical response to Imitations was mixed and sometimes hostile (as was the case with Vladimir Nabokov's public response to Lowell's Mandelstam translations). In a review of Lowell's Collected Poems, the poet Michael Hofmann wrote that although he thought Life Studies was Lowell's best book, Imitations was Lowell's most "pivotal book," arguing that the book "marks the entry into his work of what one might term ‘international style’, something coolly open to not-quite-English." In the book's introduction, Lowell explained that his idiosyncratic translations should be thought of as "imitations" rather than strict translations since he took many liberties with the originals, trying to "do what [his] authors might have done if they were writing their poems now and in America." 
His next book For the Union Dead (1964) was widely praised, particularly for its title poem, which invoked Allen Tate's "Ode to the Confederate Dead." For the Union Dead was Lowell's first book since Life Studies to contain all original verse (since it did not include any translations), and in writing the poems in this volume, Lowell built upon the looser, more personal style of writing that he'd established in the final section of Life Studies. However, none of the poems in For the Union Dead explicitly addressed the taboo subject of Lowell's mental illness (like some of the poems in Life Studies did) and were, therefore, not notably "confessional." The subject matter in For the Union Dead was also much broader than it was in Life Studies. For instance, Lowell wrote about a number of world historical figures in poems like "Caligula," "Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts," and "Lady Raleigh's Lament."
In 1964, Lowell also tried his hand at playwrighting with three, one-act plays that were meant to be performed together as a trilogy, titled The Old Glory. The first two parts, "Endecott the Red Cross" and "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" were stage adaptations of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the third part, "Benito Cereno," was a stage adaptation of a novella by Herman Melville. The Old Glory was produced off-Broadway in New York City in 1964 and won five Obie Awards in 1965 including an award for "Best American Play." The play was published in its first printing in 1965 (with a revised edition following in 1968).
In 1967, Lowell published his next book of poems, Near the Ocean. With this volume, Lowell returned to writing more formal, metered verse. The second half of the book also shows Lowell returning once again to writing loose translations (including verse approximations of Dante, Juvenal, and Horace). The best known poem in this volume is "Waking Early Sunday Morning," which was written in eight-line tetrameter stanzas (borrowed from Andrew Marvell's poem "Upon Appleton House") and showed contemporary American politics overtly entering into Lowell's work.
During 1967 and 1968 he experimented with a verse journal, published as Notebook 1967-68 (and later republished in a revised and expanded edition, titled Notebook). Lowell referred to these fourteen-line poems as sonnets although they sometimes failed to incorporate regular meter and rhyme (both of which are defining features of the sonnet form); however, some of Lowell's sonnets (particularly the ones in Notebook 1967-1968) were written in blank verse with a definitive pentameter and a small handful also included rhyme. Regarding the issue of meter in these poems, Lowell wrote "My meter, fourteen line unrhymed blank verse sections, is fairly strict at first and elsewhere, but often corrupts in single lines to the freedom of prose."
In the Notebook poems, Lowell included the poem "In The Cage," a sonnet that he'd originally published in his first book, Lord Weary's Castle. He also included revised, sonnet versions of the poems "Caligula" and "Night-Sweat" (originally published in For the Union Dead) and of "1958" and "To Theodore Roethke: 1908-1963" (originally published in Near the Ocean). In his "Afterthought" at the end of Notebook 1967-1968, Lowell explained the premise and timeline of the book:
This is not my diary, my confession, not a puritan's too literal pornographic honesty, glad to share private embarassment, and triumph. The time is a summer, an autumn, a winter, a spring, another summer; here the poem ends, except for turned-back bits of fall and winter 1968. . .My plot rolls with the seasons. The separate poems and sections are opportunist and inspired by impulse. Accident threw up subjects, and the plot swallowed them--famished for human chances. I lean heavily to the rational, but am devoted to surrealism.
In this same "Afterthought" section, Lowell acknowledges some of his source materials for the poems, writing, "I have taken from many books, used the throwaway conversational inspirations of my friends, and much more that I idly spoke to myself." Some of the sources and authors he cites include Jesse Glenn Gray's The Warriors, Simone Weil's Half a Century Gone, Herbert Marcuse, Aijaz Ahmad, R.P. Blackmur, Plutarch, Stonewall Jackson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Steven Gould Axelrod wrote that, "[Lowell's concept behind the sonnet form] was to achieve the balance of freedom and order, discontinuity and continuity, that he [had] observed in [Wallace] Stevens's late long poems and in John Berryman's Dream Songs, then nearing completion. He hoped that his form . . . would enable him 'to describe the immediate instant,' an instant in which political and personal happenings interacted with a lifetime's accumulation of memories, dreams, and knowledge."  Lowell liked the new form so much that he reworked and revised many of the poems from Notebook and used them as the foundation for his next three volumes of verse, all of which employed the same loose, fourteen-line sonnet form.
1970s to the present 
The first book in Lowell's Notebook-derived trilogy was History (1973) which primarily dealt with world history from antiquity up to the mid-20th century (although the book does not always follow a linear or logical path and contains many poems about Lowell's friends, peers, and family). The second book, For Lizzie and Harriet (1973), describes the breakdown of his second marriage and contains poems that are supposed to be in the voices of his daughter, Harriet, and his second wife, Elizabeth. Finally, the last work in Lowell's sonnet sequence, The Dolphin (1973), which won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize, includes poems about his daughter, his ex-wife, and his new wife Caroline Blackwood whom he had affectionately nicknamed "Dolphin." Notably, the book only contained new poems, making it the only book in Lowell's sonnet trilogy not to include revised and reordered poems from Notebook.
A minor controversy erupted when Lowell admitted to having incorporated (and altered) private letters from his ex-wife, Elizabeth Hardwick into poems for The Dolphin. He was particularly criticized for this by his friends, fellow-poets Adrienne Rich and Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop made an eloquent and thoughtful argument to Lowell against publishing The Dolphin. In a letter to Lowell regarding The Dolphin, dated March 21, 1972, before he'd published the book, Bishop praises the writing, saying, "Please believe that I think it is wonderful poetry." But then she states, "I'm sure my point is only too plain. . .Lizzie [Hardwick] is not dead, etc.--but there is a 'mixture of fact & fiction' [in the book], and you have changed [Hardwick's] letters. That is 'infinite mischief,' I think. . .One can use one's life as material--one does anyway--but these letters--aren't you violating a trust? IF you were given permission--IF you hadn't changed them. . .etc. But art just isn't worth that much." Adrienne Rich was not as diplomatic as Bishop. Instead of sending Lowell a private letter on the matter, she publically criticized Lowell and his books The Dolphin and To Lizzie and Harriet in a review that appeared in the American Poetry Review and that effectively ended the two poets' long-standing friendship.
Critical response to Lowell's sonnets from the Notebook poems through to The Dolphin met with mixed responses upon publication, and critical consensus on the poems continues to be mixed. Lowell's contemporaries, like Derek Walcott and William Meredith, praised the poems upon their publication. Meredith wrote about Notebook: 1967-68, "Complex and imperfect, like most of the accomplishments of serious men and women today, Robert Lowell's Notebook 1967-68 is nevertheless a beautiful and major work."  But a review of History, For Lizzie and Harriet, and The Dolphin by Calvin Bedient in The New York Times was mostly negative. Bedient wrote, "Inchoate and desultory, the poems never accumulate and break in the great way, like a waterfall seen from the lip, more felt than seen. In truth, they are under no pressure to go anywhere, except to the 14th line. Prey to random associations, they are full of false starts, fractures, distractions." Since the release of Lowell's Collected Poems in 2003, a number of critics and poets have praised the sonnets, including Michael Hofmann, William Logan, and Richard Tillinghast (though Logan and Hofmann note that they both strongly preferred the original Notebook versions of the sonnets over the revised versions that Lowell published in History and To Lizzie and Harriet). Still the sonnet volumes have also received recent negative responses as well. In an otherwise glowing review of Lowell's Collected Poems, A.O. Scott wrote, "The three sonnet sequences Lowell published in 1973. . .occupy nearly 300 pages, and reading them, one damn sonnet after the other, induces more stupor than rapture." And in her review of the Collected Poems, Marjorie Perloff called the sonnet poems "trivial and catty," considering them to be Lowell's least important volumes.
Lowell published his last volume of poetry, Day by Day, in 1977, the year of his death. In May 1977, Lowell won the $10,000 National Medal for Literature awarded by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and Day by Day was awarded that year's National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. In a PBS documentary on Lowell, Anthony Hecht said that "[Day by Day was] a very touching, moving, gentle book, tinged with a sense of [Lowell's] own pain and the pain [he'd] given to others." It was Lowell's only volume to contain nothing but free verse. In many of the poems, Lowell reflects on his life, his past relationships, and his own mortality. The best-known poem from this collection is the last one, titled "Epilogue," in which Lowell reflects upon the "confessional" school of poetry with which his work was associated. In this poem he wrote,
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
Yet why not say what happened?
The book has received significant critical attention from the literary scholar and critic Helen Vendler who has written about the book in essays and in her book Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill (2010). In her essay "Robert Lowell's Last Days and Last Poems," she defends the book from attacks following its publication in reviews, like the one written by Donald Hall in which he called the book a failure. Vendler wrote that some critics who came to this conclusion were disappointed because Lowell's last book was so much different than any of his previous volumes, abandoning ambitious metaphors and political engagement for more personal snapshots. She wrote, "Now [Lowell] has ended [his career], in Day by Day, as a writer of disarming openness, exposing shame and uncertainty, offering almost no purchase to interpretation, and in his journal-keeping, abandoning conventional structure, whether rhetorical or logical. The poems drift from one focus to another; they avoid the histrionic; they sigh more often than they expostulate. They acknowledge exhaustion; they expect death." She praises some of Lowell's descriptions, particularly his descriptions of impotence, depression, and old age.
Lowell's Collected Poems, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter, was published in 2003. The Collected Poems was a very comprehensive volume that included all of Lowell's major works with the exception of Notebook 1967-1968 and Notebook. However, many of the poems from these volumes were republished, in revised forms, in History and For Lizzie and Harriet. On the heels of the publication of The Collected Poems, The Letters of Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton, was published in 2005. Both Lowell's Collected Poems and his Letters received overwhelmingly positive critical responses from the mainstream press, and their publication has since led to a renewed interest in Lowell's writing.
|Ancestors of Robert Lowell|
- Land of Unlikeness (1944)
- Lord Weary's Castle (1946)
- The Mills of The Kavanaughs (1951)
- Life Studies (1959)
- Phaedra (translation) (1961)
- Imitations (1961)
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864 (limited edition keepsake of centenary commemoration of Hawthorne's death), Ohio State 'University Press (1964)
- For the Union Dead (1964)
- The Old Glory (1965)
- The Achievement of Robert Lowell: A Comprehensive Selection of His Poems, edited and introduced by William J. Martz, Scott, Foresman (1966)
- Near the Ocean (1967)
- R. F. K., 1925-1968 privately printed limited edition (1969)
- Notebook 1967-1968 (1969) (Revised and Expanded as Notebook, 1970)
- The Voyage & other versions of poems of Baudelaire (1969)
- Prometheus Bound (translation) (1969)
- Poesie, 1940-1970 (English with Italian translations), Longanesi (Milan), (1972)
- History (1973)
- For Lizzie and Harriet (1973)
- The Dolphin (1973)
- Selected Poems (1976) (Revised Edition, 1977)
- Day by Day (1977)
- The Oresteia of Aeschylus (1978)
- Collected Prose (1987)
- Collected Poems (2003)
- Selected Poems (2006) (Expanded Edition)
Further reading 
- Hamilton, Ian. Robert Lowell: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 1982.
- Lowell, Robert. Collected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003.
- Mariani, Paul. Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.
- Travisano, Thomas and Saskia Hamilton, eds. Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2008.
- "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1953-1960". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
- "Robert Lowell (1917-1977)." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 124. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. p251-308.
- "Beyond Wikipedia: Notes on Robert Lowell's Family". Nicholas Jenkins: Arcade. May 07, 2010. Accessed November 16, 2012
- New York Council of Humanities
- "Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York". absolutearts.com. May 26, 2005. Accessed November 16, 2012
- Hamilton, Ian. Robert Lowell: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 1982.
- Brooks, Cleanth and Robert Penn Warren. "Robert Lowell." Conversations on the Craft of Poetry. New York: Hold, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961.
- Robert Lowell Poets of Cambridge, USA
- Voices and Visions Series on Lowell - http://www.learner.org/resources/series57.html?pop=yes&pid=601
- McAlexander, Hugh, "Peter Taylor: The Undergraduate Years at Kenyon," The Kenyon Review, New Series, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (Summer - Autumn, 1999), pp. 43-57.</ref
- Robert Lowell @ Poets.org
- U of Illinois - Robert Lowell Bio Sketch
- "Draft Dodgers and Dissenters," Time Magazine, November 14, 1943, p.12.
- Bellamy, Joe David Literary luxuries: American writing at the end of the millennium, University of Missouri Press, 1995 ISBN 978-0-8262-1029-6, p. 113.
- Interview with Anthony Hecht, The Harvard Bulletin, Volume 75, 1972, p. 58.
- Bryan Marquard (September 24, 2010). "Donald Winslow, professor at BU; specialized in life writing; at 98". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- Meyers, Jeffrey, ed. Robert Lowell: Interviews and Memoirs. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988.
- Orr, Peter, ed. "The Poet Speaks - Interviews with Contemporary Poets Conducted by Hilary Morrish, Peter Orr, John Press and Ian Scott-Kilvert". London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.
- Independent Publisher article on Groundbreaking Books feature
- Kunitz, Stanley. Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985.
- Mailer, Norman. The Armies of the Night. New York: New American Library, 1968.
- Kunitz, Stanley. "Talk with Robert Lowell." The New York Times. October 4, 1964. 
- Time Cover
- "The Poets: A Second Chance." No Author listed. Time Magazine. June 2, 1967. 
- Voices and Visions Video Series. Robert Lowell. 1988.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Elizabeth Hardwick, Writer, Dies at 91. The New York Times. December 4, 2007. 
- Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Ed. Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2008.
- Lowell, Robert. Collected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2003.
- Lowell, Robert. Collected Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1987.
- Lowell, Robert. Letters. "To Randall Jarrell." October 11, 1957. NY: FS&G, 2005. 296.
- Helen Vendler phone interview on Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop audio podcast from The New York Review of Books. Accessed September 11, 2010
- Hamilton, Saskia. "Introduction: 'I Was Naked Without My Line-Ends.'" The Letters of Robert Lowell. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2005.
- Jarrell, Randall. "From the Kingdom of Necessity." No Other Book: Selected Essays. HarperCollins, 1999.
- "National Book Awards – 1960". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
(With acceptance speech by Lowell and essay by Dilruba Ahmed from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
- Groundbreaking Poets: Life Studies. No author listed
- Bidart, Frank, editor. (2003) "On Confessional Poetry." Robert Lowell Collected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
- Nabokov, Vladimir, "On Adaptation". The New York Review of Books, December 4, 1969 and Strong Opinions, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973.
- Hofmann, Michael. "His Own Prophet." London Times Book Review. 11 Sept. 2003. 
- Lowell, Robert. Imitations. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1961.
- Publisher's play synopsis
- Obie Awards for 1965
- Lowell, Robert. Notebook 1967-1968. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. New York: 1968.
- Axelrod, Steven Gould, Robert Lowell: Life and Art, Princeton University Press, 1978.
- Axelrod. Stephen. "Lowell's Comeback?" The New England Quarterly Vol. 77, No. 2. June 2004.
- Words in Air: the Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Ed. Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
- Spivack, Kathleen. With Robert Lowell and His Circle. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2012.
- Meredith, William. "Notebook 1967-68." The New York Times. 15 June 1969.
- Bedient, Calvin. "Visions and Revisions-Three New Volumes by America's First Poet." The New York Times. 29 July 1973.
- AO Scott's Collected Poems review on Slate"A Life's Study: Why Robert Lowell is America's most important career poet". Slate magazine. June 20, 2003.
- Marjorie Perloff's Collected Poems Review
- Lowell's obit in NY Times 9/13/1977
- Voices and Visions Video Series. Robert Lowell. 1988.
- Lowell, Robert. Collected Poems. Edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2003.
- Vendler, Helen, "Robert Lowell's Last Days and Last Poems." Robert Lowell: A Tribute. Edited by Rolando Anzilotti. Pisa: Nistri-Lischi, 1979. 156-171.
- "The Passions of Robert Lowell" June 26, 2005 New York Times. Accessed September 18, 2010
- Collected Poems:The Whole Lowell June 29, 2003 'New York Times. Accessed September 18, 2010
- "A Life's Study: Why Robert Lowell is America's most important career poet". Slate magazine. June 20, 2003. Accessed September 18, 2010
- Jenkins, N., 'Charlotte Winslow and Commander Robert Traill Spence Lowell III - Relationship Chart'
- Jenkins, N., 'Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV - Pedigree Tree'
- American Jewish Archives
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Robert Lowell|
- Listen to Robert Lowell reading 'Skunk Hour'
- "Epilogue" by Robert Lowell at the Poetry Foundation.
- Works by or about Robert Lowell in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Articles on Lowell at Modern American Poetry, University of Illinois. Accessed 2010-09-11
- Articles on Lowell at Modern American Poetry, University of Illinois. Accessed 2010-09-11
- Lowell's grave site at findagrave.com.
- Frederick Seidel (Winter-Spring 1961). "Robert Lowell, The Art of Poetry No. 3". The Paris Review. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
- Helen Vendler phone interview on Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop audio podcast from The New York Review of Books. Accessed 2010-09-11
- Dan Chiasson's Review of Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell November 3, 2008. The New Yorker. Accessed 2010-09-11
- "Robert Lowell and the Art of the Pen Portrait", Thomas Travisano, Berfrois, 7 February 2012