Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Great Regulars: [Robert] Lowell wrote about his imprisonment,

his marriage, his relatives, himself. His most publicly accessible and poetically integrated poem, "For the Union Dead" (1960), was stirred by memories of his childhood, yet it handled without pomposity or evasion one of the largest of American themes, the heritage of slavery, dwelling on the black Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment, led in the Civil War by Robert Gould Shaw (a distant kinsman of Lowell's). Vying with James Russell Lowell, who put the same subject to verse a century earlier, Robert Lowell wrote,

Two months after marching through Boston,
half the regiment was dead . . .
Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city's throat.

from Powells: Review-A-Day: The Poetry of Heartbreak


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