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This review is taken from Poetry Nation 2 Number 2, 1974.

OVERTRAINED FOR POETRY
HISTORY. By Robert Lowell. Faber & Faber. £2.95. FOR LIZZIE AND HARRIET. By Robert Lowell. Faber & Faber. £1.40. THE DOLPHIN. By Robert Lowell. Faber & Faber. £1.75.

A GOOD MANY critics have paid their routine respects to the scale of what Robert Lowell has done in Notebook and in History, its latest revised version. He aims at world stature - the argument seems to be - both in themes and in personal achievement as a poet, and although he may not wholly succeed we should respect him - in this age of hole-and-corner over-privatised poetry etc., etc. - for at least trying. But should we really?

'About 80 of the poems in History are new,' Lowell tells us in his prefatory note to that volume, 'the rest are taken from my last published poem, Notebook begun six years ago. All the poems have been changed, some heavily. . . . My old title, Notebook, was more accurate than I wished, i.e. the composition was jumbled. I hope this jumble or jungle is cleared - that I have cut the waste marble from the figure'. As well as History Lowell gives us - also reorganised from Notebook - a sequence about his last marriage, called For Lizzie and Harriet, and a new sequence called The Dolphin which is mainly about his present one. The three books have appeared simultaneously in America and in England (where Lowell now lives) and run to a total of some 535 poems. ...


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