Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV (March 1, 1917 – September 12, 1977) was an American poet, considered the founder 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.


Early Years

Lowell was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Boston Brahmin family that included poets Amy Lowell and James Russell Lowell. His mother, Charlotte Winslow, was a descendant of William Samuel Johnson, a signer of the United States Constitution, along with Jonathan Edwards, the famed Calvinist theologian, Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan preacher and healer, Robert Livingston the Elder, Thomas Dudley, the second governor of Massachusetts, and Mayflower passengers James Chilton and his daughter Mary Chilton.

He 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. Then Lowell attended Harvard College for two years before transferring to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, to study under John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate.

There is a well-known anecdote about where Lowell lived when he first arrived at Kenyon. Before arriving at the school, he 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 World War II broke out.

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