. The letters before the revelation are made more wounded, more scouring, by the familiar touches: “I miss you, old man. Obviously another revision, or two, or three came in between, but where and when is not revealed. Thereafter, the messy lives lurking beneath the surface of poems were splashed across the page in Technicolor. After Lowell and Plath, confessional poetry had little more to say, but it has said those things over and over in weary repetition. All we need to know is when you are coming back. 4.6 out of 5 stars 7. Learn how your support contributes to our continued defense of truth. Bishop survived until sixty-eight. Every poet needs a contrary voice, a critic who can stand outside the poems and risk shouting, “Ridiculous!” or “You’ve got to be kidding!” Yet Lowell’s revisions became a kind of madness, compulsive reworkings without the trappings of art—and Bidart seemed to egg him on. (“There are now five holes I can stick my tongue in; none yet painful.”) Even after their divorce, when their final joint tax-return came due, the poet couldn’t bestir himself to send her the information required. Delmore Schwartz, that enfant terrible once called the American Auden, has vanished from some anthologies altogether. And out of fairness to her, we also wanted to represent her voice as though she wasn’t just locked in this marital conversation. And it also helps release a little pressure of the intensity of that correspondence about a breakup. Afterward she took his belongings back to her apartment. Lowell trawled through his present in The Dolphin—sometimes day by day and hour by hour. All the reticence in her correspondence, particularly after the trial by fire of having her letters be used and published in the way that Lowell did—reading all of those letters alongside all of those great essays, you have a sense that she’s seen it all. Very few poets have wrestled with that gift—Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Keats, and more recently Geoffrey Hill, at a start. Soon the universities were bidding aggressively against each other. The Dolphin Letters would be enlightening and rage-inducing enough had there been nothing more to say. Poets ever since have labored under the delusion that art is life and life, art—and that poetry begins and ends, in our mealy-mouthed language, in the poet’s truth. — Inside the breakdown of Harry’s relationship with the queen— All of the looks from the Golden Globes 2020 red carpet— Royal family “hurt” and “devastated” by Harry and Meghan’s bombshell exit— Elizabeth Wurtzel’s unfinished work— Meet Carole Ghosn, the wife ensnared in Carlos’s saga— Emilia Clarke on life after Khaleesi— From the Archive: Diana’s revenge. She once described him as. There were no books of late style, no final decades of efflorescence; and many poets ended in brutish self-destruction. The best of them died before they became grandfathers, but most had already written themselves out. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. The spirit that she knew when he was well, in particular, while seeing his faults absolutely clearly. as if their words were mortal, alterable, displaceable at pleasure! She knows you’re going to be there one day. The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle Elizabeth Hardwick. Lowell had indulged himself with a binge of almost three hundred unrhymed sonnets, dedicating them to Hardwick and Harriet (“Even before you could speak, / without knowing, I loved you”). your clowning makes visitors want to call a taxi. You must leave that parasitic life and come home.” Months later, she was still beside herself: “We can’t bear your photographs, anything. It’s Newton’s fourth law. They’re partly an instruction booklet to the misery two literate, intelligent adults can bring each other; and the letters have cruelly and crucially now been paired with two versions of Lowell’s The Dolphin (1973), where his mania for revision is nakedly on display. They lack only the passions and torsions of autobiography. the other life that might have been had.” The connection between marrying genius and impostor syndrome might deserve study—but so might the link between marrying beauty and a Napoleon complex. Robert Lowell was an American poet, best known for winning the ‘National Book Award’ for his book of poetry titled ‘Life Studies.’ Born to a military commander father in Massachusetts, he was a violent kid who bullied other children. The omissions, which are unaccountable, make Blackwood an outsider, beyond the circuit of The Dolphin Letters, which gives only a partial view of the emotional extortions present and fails to document the juddering desperation of Lowell’s last months. After Lowell’s betrayal was revealed, Hardwick let him have it: “You are a great American writer. Lowell remains one of the great autobiographical poets; but in his finest poems he’s usually more observer than observed. Beginning in November 1975, he suffered numerous hospitalizations—an overdose of lithium, at least two manic episodes, and a bout of congestive heart failure—to say nothing of the sprees of odd behavior, like announcing in a restaurant that he was the king of Scotland. your clowning makes us want to vomit—you bore, bore, bore the friends who want to keep  wished to save your image. That new creature. This massive collection of letters reads like an epistolary novel, one in many ways unfinished, a great mansion under construction when the money ran out. Dolphin Lowell. Your trousers are worn to a mirror. There’s no laundry dirtier than laundry dumped at the end of a marriage—when a literary couple comes to blows, the air is full of pummeling haymakers. Although it’s very easy to feel, reading it. . This is not my diary, my confession, not a puritan’s too literal pornographic honesty, glad to share private embarrassment, and triumph. Lowell could fairly be represented by no fewer than a dozen or two poems. 2The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972–1973, by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 195 pages, $18 (paper). Hardwick’s description of her estranged husband is indelible: “He is such a childish torturer—that little side look of malice he gives you—and so spooky, more and more. (“In Memory of Arthur Winslow,” “The Death of the Sheriff,” “The Mills of the Kavanaughs,” “Her Dead Brother,” and “Thanksgiving’s Over” were all butchered.) And [Hardwick and I] were of course very much in touch during that period. The Dolphin is a classic that you can read over and over without getting tired of it. Most great poems, whatever their intention, consist of half-truths and unwholesome lies. 4.8 out of 5 stars 4. Which is to honor her deep respect for him, for his mind and for his spirit. There are few poems in The Dolphin I’d want to take to a desert island. That she’s seeing through it all. The lesser poets of the generation, a few of them, staggered into their nineties—three became centenarians. The Dolphin Letters tears the public face off the collapsing marriage, though Lowell’s misbehavior was even at the time widely known and subject to literary gossip. Poet Robert Lowell (Photo by Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images) The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979 collects the bulk of the correspondence between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the torturous years when the writers separated, divorced, and briefly reunited, before Lowell died suddenly in 1977. The family called Hamilton and asked her to step in. He admitted to his publisher Robert Giroux that the letters in the book were only “versions” “made up of a mixture of quotes, improvisation, paraphrase.” This edition could have clarified exactly what Lowell filched and what he fabricated, showing more plainly if the gains in art were worth the loss of fidelity. The path to "The Dolphin" was perilous. To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories. . It’s such a moving passage. Centered on the letters they exchanged with each other and with She sorted the massive accumulation but also slyly wrote to Harvard. And her sense of the balance of the letter, the balance of its composition, is gorgeous. Like she treated every piece of writing. She refuses to continue to be humiliated. Even as far back as Lord Weary’s Castle, he changed lines between printings. Hardwick made plans to rent out their New York apartment, canceling her teaching at Barnard, canceling their daughter’s enrollment at Dalton (the fancy private school that made her miserable), and badgering Lowell for not writing her—then apologizing after his vague and emollient excuses. Crummy, cruel thing for you two selfish little people there to do. So it’s quite a moment. 1The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle, edited by Saskia Hamilton; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 504 pages, $50. And—that must have been in her special nature somehow. In preparing his true first book, Lord Weary’s Castle (1946), which won the Pulitzer Prize, he radically reworked and judiciously fiddled with poems from Land of Unlikeness (1944), the limited edition that introduced him. It’s quite difficult to describe. In the book, Lowell went beyond what he’d done in Life Studies, and later he had regrets. On September 12, 1977, Lowell was on his way back to the Manhattan apartment he shared with Hardwick when he suffered a heart attack and died. At times he seemed to be running into the publishing house, shouting, “Stop the presses!” It would be easy to say that this was perfectionism without perfection, or change for change’s sake, or antic indecision, or yet another sign of Lowell’s ever-latent mania—it’s admirable up to a point, but he always skated past that point. She died three decades later, never learning that he’d handed the packet to Harvard with a note restricting access until her death. Lowell’s new marriage was soon on the rocks. The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle: Lowell, Robert, Hardwick, Elizabeth, Hamilton, Saskia: Amazon.sg: Books His changed circumstances again unleashed the demon in him, and he began to write additional sonnets about his love affair and the collapse of his marriage. Their moments of triumph during the twenty-year campaign of the Vietnam War, when Robert Lowell appeared on the cover of Time, look thinner and more harried now. Saskia Hamilton on how she put Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick back in conversation, recontextualizing the letters they wrote to each other during their highly publicized divorce. Confessional poetry, as it came to be called, began with the publication of two books in April 1959: Lowell’s Life Studies, which received the National Book Award, and W. D. Snodgrass’s Heart’s Needle, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. etc. It can be in her own voice, telling the story from a different angle, instead of having an editor come in and try and do it. William Logan’s new collection of criticism, Broken Ground: Poetry and the Demon of History, will be published this spring by Columbia University Press. At the time Lowell was writing these poems, a great storm was going on in his personal life, as he had left his wife Elizabeth Hardwick and their teenager daughter Harriet behind in New York and gone to London to live with Lady Caroline Blackwood. He studied at Harvard University and Kenyon College. He had the right to do with them as he wished.” Not quite. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Arriving at Kennedy Airport, he took a taxi to his old apartment. Lowell completed the trifecta. . He had bought her portrait. THE DOLPHIN is a collection of 14-line "love poems" by Robert Lowell published in 1973. $9.89. Vanity Fair may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Neither did she write much else in the poem. A necessary picture of Lowell in this period would have required printing the remains of all his letters to her, certainly the twenty-one Saskia Hamilton included in The Letters of Robert Lowell (2005). The historical poems, with a battalion of additions, were marched into History; the poems for his daughter and soon former wife became For Lizzie and Harriet; and a raft of new poems about his affair was titled The Dolphin—all published in one whack in 1973. And then the next thing we’re reading is Hardwick’s angry letter to Bob Giroux, who edited and published The Dolphin. That night the poet moved into her London house. The memorable poems in Life Studies, apart from “Skunk Hour,” “Beyond the Alps,” and one or two others, are largely about friends and relations, not Lowell’s life—portraits, not self-portraits. Due to Lowell’s creative falsifications, she might also have sued for libel—she may have been stayed only by the probable effect on their daughter. Saskia Hamilton, the editor of these volumes, notes that in the two decades of the marriage Lowell had had “at least ten major manic episodes and at least fifteen hospitalizations”—and by the second decade the mania arrived annually, like a tax bill. The poems in The Dolphin finally seem much of a muchness, or such of a suchness. . All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 38 Number 6, on page 4 Copyright © 2021 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com https://newcriterion.com/issues/2020/2/lowells-dolphin, Topics:Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Poetry, The Dolphin, Caroline Blackwood, personal difficulties make trip to new york impossible right away, The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle, https://newcriterion.com/issues/2020/2/lowells-dolphin. The Dolphin Letters offers an unprecedented portrait of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the last seven years of Lowell’s life (1970 to 1977), a time of personal crisis and creative innovation for both writers. (These were apparently lost after being excerpted for the biography.) 4.2 out of 5 stars 67. That’s one of the wonderful experiences of Sleepless Nights, that the people she’s writing about look right back at her, and at us. You could pigeonhole them if you wanted to, you could reduce their lives to a plot, say good riddance. A mentor had given her a business card with Hardwick’s address and telephone number, and Hamilton was quickly put to work cataloging some of the papers that had accumulated in Lowell’s study after his death. That would have been cold comfort to Hardwick. Hardcover. . Find many great new & used options and get the best deals for The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-1973 by Robert Lowell. Overhearing her letters. In the book, you draw on parallel conversations both Hardwick and Lowell were having with friends and colleagues during this difficult time. The backlash came, first from friends who had been given the manuscript, and later from critics, because he’d used Hardwick’s pained, heartbroken letters in the poems, used them but also altered and rewritten them at will. She perhaps did not realize that for the previous six months, while teaching at Harvard, he’d been sleeping with one of his students. The purpose of this double volume is, alas, never entirely clear. IF you were given permission—IF you hadn’t changed them . She wrote Elizabeth Bishop that the poems “hurt me as much as anything in my life” and was scathing to his publishers. By Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. And yet. The letters give you this more intimate side of the struggles that went into how she created those essays and that work of fiction—or memoir, or whatever you want to call it. Randall Jarrell has been reduced to “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” and another war poem or two. The letters, richly discomfiting during the four years it took to unravel the long marriage, thin out badly after the quarrels over the divorce. Though more conservative than their forebears, the younger poets could not ignore the lessons of Eliot, Pound, and other modernists. Presented entirely as a quotation, presumably by Hardwick, the sonnet has at least five sources: a remark by Frank Bidart in a letter of June 1970; a phrase in a telegram from Hardwick to Lowell that October; a single word, perhaps, plucked from Lowell’s letter to Harriet on Easter 1972; three lines from a poem titled “The Messiah” in the Dolphin manuscript; and at last an anodyne passage from a Summer 1972 letter by Hardwick: Am watching a scruffy, seal colored woodchuck graze on weeds, then lift a greedy snout, listening, then back to the speedy feeding. Paperback, 9780374511951, 0374511950 “They obviously believed in archives and that they should be preserved, but I think one concern was, if they were just put into an archive they might be left there to be discovered by any scholar or any researcher, and quoted out of context. . His 1844 essay “The Poet” may now seem hidebound and nativist, but through Whitman he made our literature post-colonial. And then it is all indeed on the eve of the publication of The Dolphin. His frequent bouts of mania were often signaled by an affair—there was a long list of other women, some of them his students. the flagrant Frank Bidart, atremble, but ever obsequious. The draft manuscript of “From My Wife” is a good example of the more radical revisions in the book. on weeds, then lift his greedy snout and listen; then back to speedy feeding. Via New Republic. . Theodore Roethke may soon amount to no more than “My Papa’s Waltz,” “The Waking,” and perhaps a botanical; John Berryman, a few of the Dream Songs, whose minstrelsy and blackface have gone from sublime effrontery to grotesque offense. interlined, corrected! The younger poet was later guilty of bad behavior. In the later years of this correspondence, Hardwick and Lowell come to a reconciliation. Major revisions are relatively rare and not always convincing. Half-a-dozen years into his marriage to Hardwick, he had shocked Elizabeth Bishop by confessing that asking her to marry him was “the might have been[,] . That the most original poet of his generation—the most brilliant we’ve had in the century since the modernists (Berryman was brilliant, but not always in his poetry)—was also among the most troubled, the least stable, the poet most likely to be voted bad company when drunk (Schwartz, Berryman, and Bishop would have been in the running) proves nothing about poetry and little about Lowell. I have sat and listened to too many words of the collaborating muse, … Hardwick comes off more warmly and sympathetically in later letters, as well as more forgiving, after she accepts the inevitable. Since Robert Lowell’s sudden death in 1977 his critical reputation has suffered from the usual post-mortem slump. When she died in 2007, however, Lowell's literary executor Frank Bidart called the family with a stunning announcement. But even that letter to me—I was just this young researcher. Are there letters from Blackwood to Lowell that also lie ungathered? The Dolphin Letters offers an unprecedented portrait of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the last seven years of Lowell's life (1970 to 1977), a time of personal crisis and creative innovation for both writers. This bifocal version of The Dolphin gives us nothing like that. In the second printing he had altered a few poems, adding three new ones; in 1970, he brought out a new edition further revised, and enlarged to nearly four hundred poems. His short-lived generation of poets (like Byron, “mad—bad—and dangerous to know”) lived much longer than the young Romantics. The year before his affair, he had published Notebook 1967–68 (1969), which he called, in an “Afterthought,”. Just as a social gesture. The king and queen of Spain are shrunken, ghastly spirits in a mirror; the artist is the giant in the room. Vanity Fair: You’d known Hardwick for years when you started work on this book, yet you never got a chance to talk to her about what you found. I will never go into the workshop of any great artist again. Lamb said of these draft pages that he wished the librarians “had thrown them in the Cam.”. The poet has turned Hardwick’s vivid prose to pentameter, changing little, just intensifying. You just have the sense that she’s looking right back at you. It’s a very different quality than writing for posterity, writing self-consciously because you think you’re important. . Having looked until my eyes bled, I could find scarcely twenty lines that came directly from her letters, most in a single poem, “Letter [Marriage, 8].” I’m not counting others so loosely paraphrased Lowell made them his own. In light of the letters, the poems stand newly exposed, the gold, however sparse, glinting in the miner’s pan. As a reader of our efforts, you have stood with us on the front lines in the battle for culture. Edwards and the Spider,” “Falling Asleep over the Aeneid,” “Skunk Hour,” “Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts,” “For the Union Dead,” and many another, he showed where he stood in the long ranks of poets in English. The Dolphin Letters tears the public face off the collapsing marriage. That’s what I find so interesting and surprising. Most variants, fixing typos and making small adjustments to wording, seem just housekeeper’s taskwork. So they present a rather distorted picture of her. When Lowell wanted someone to help him press forward with revisions, he called on Frank Bidart, his Man Friday. When the poet Robert Lowell published The Dolphin in 1973, it caused a scandal. Lowell was revising life into art as it was being lived—we are far from Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity.” Do the demands and privileges of art include harming those you love? To see your words rewritten or simply invented—isn’t that a great deal more insulting to another writer? But instead it’s the kind of extraordinary act of composure that we see in the creation of their work. Trauma is an unforgiving muse—the creative draft comes with a dose of belladonna. When Lowell succeeded, in “Mr. The words, on the other hand, remain the property of the writer. When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body She also refuses to do what comes more easily to others who are feeling it and judging it, which is to excoriate Lowell and cut him off. (Theirs in New York consisted of the family apartment and two studio apartments in the same building, used as studies.) The correspondence between one of the most famous couples of twentieth-century literature The Dolphin Letters offers an unprecedented portrait of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the last seven years of Lowell''s life (1970 to 1977), a time of personal crisis and creative innovation for both writers. . Saskia Hamilton: I was working on Lowell’s writings for quite a few years. Lowell, meanwhile, could not even bother to take care of his teeth. When she opened the package, Hardwick found herself staring into the face of the woman who had stolen her husband. With the loss of her teaching, Hardwick had been reduced to writing short reviews for Vogue, a magazine she despised. The numerous drafts of “Skunk Hour” now at Harvard are extraordinary, revealing how the poem only gradually and painfully became itself. She stays true to both things.