Art, Life, and Legacy in Robert Lowell’s “Marriage”

I am under the impression that life imitates art a great deal more than the reverse. How much of what we say or do is influenced by characters from movies, books, or video games we like and wish to emulate? Next time you have a conversation, pay attention to how much of it is composed of references or quotes. Perhaps in the social circles I travel in this happens more often, but I would say even with the least culturally savvy group of people, it is inevitable that at some point someone might say a line they heard in a movie, or imitate the voice of a TV show character.

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Maintaining Appearances and Encroaching Death in Robert Lowell’s “Terminal Days at Beverly Farms”

American poet, Robert Lowell is one of the frontrunners of the confessional poetry movement that would become popular in the 50s and 60s, a movement that would include others such as Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, and W.D. Snodgrass. Lowell’s poetry collection Life Studies is one of the first collections to include extensive autobiographical content within his poetry. Every artist takes inspiration from experiences in their lives (you write about what you know after all), but Lowell explicitly infuses facts about himself and his family in discussing broader themes concerning human nature. This is unlike other poets I’ve discussed in this blog, such as Wallace Stevens or Robert Frost, whose writing is much more allegorical. I wanted to look at the poem “Terminal Days at Beverly Farms” from Life Studies, a touching poem on the decline of his father. “Terminal Days” grapples with the theme of death and the ways that people face the inevitable. Although meditation on death is a far-reaching, philosophical theme, Lowell explores the topic through the personal and mundane. Lowell uses autobiographical information describing his father’s last days and his father’s refusal to acknowledge death up until the very end of his life. I’ll show you the poem below, and then give a very brief analysis (no need to get too heavy, the topic of death needs no help on that front): Continue reading

Can’t One Life Be Enough?: Wallace Stevens’s Celebration of Mortality in “The River of Rivers in Connecticut”

Although it is becoming more acceptable to be openly atheist, there is still a fair amount of prejudice directed at this population. In at least certain parts of the world there isn’t any Inquisition-like persecution, but atheists still get a lot of hate dumped on them for various reasons. One such complaint is that atheism is immensely depressing: life is all there is and then that’s it. There is no heaven or nirvana to imagine, there is no opportunity to continue on the wheel of samsara, you are simply finished. And apparently for some atheists the best way to spend the only life you get is to post on forums making fun of religious fundamentalists and compiling an expansive fedora collection that will clash nicely with their short-sleeved button down Hawaiian and/or flame patterned shirts. But for others the idea that this is the only life you get is incredibly exciting! Much of what we find beautiful is temporary, think for example of the brief, happy life of the Monarch butterflies. We are drawn to their fragility. Just because there is nothing beyond the eighty-odd years you get on the planet does not discount the richness of experiences you can potentially have here. Continue reading