Robert Lowell’s poetry gives uniquely full expression to the painful experience of living in modern America; he speaks personally of his own experience as son, husband, lover, father, and mentally troubled individual human being, and publicly of American policy and society as a morally and spiritually troubled inheritor of Western cultural and Christian spiritual values. All the diverse kinds of poetry that Lowell wrote over a career in which he repeatedly transformed his art—religious, confessional, public—share a high degree of formal interest, whether written in traditional metrical forms or in free verse. Indeed, it was Lowell’s ceaseless formal invention that enabled him to articulate, in so many different voices, the experience of modernity.
The poet was honored for his work on several occasions in his lifetime. He was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize—in 1947 for Lord Weary’s Castle and in 1974 for The Dolphin. He served as consultant in poetry (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress from 1947 to 1948. He won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1947), the National Book Award in Poetry in 1960 for Life Studies, the Levinson Prize in 1963, the Copernicus Award in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry in 1977 for Day by Day, and the Ambassador Book Award in 2004 for Collected Poems. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1954 and served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1962 to 1977.