Like many great American poets, Robert Lowell was an audacious reviser. Though he practiced misspelling “Lowell” on his mother’s casket while writing “Sailing Home From Rapallo,” the poet’s more usual method in his drafts, especially during the Life Studies years and just after, typically displays a different type of bravado. His poems from this period tend to be written widely (and sometimes nearly wildly), then deeply cut: in the end, surviving images and lines, rearranged to make the finished poems, act like a series of carefully spaced signal fires. To watch Lowell’s ideas shift in this manner then rise up reconfigured is to observe a master craftsman at work.
Read the rest of Terri’s article, “How Robert Shaw Becomes Robert Lowell in ‘For the Union Dead'” at The Courtland Review.