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" . . . [in early 1957] I had been giving readings on the West Coast, often reading six days a week and sometimes twice in a single day. I was in San Francisco, the era and setting of Allen Ginsberg, and all about very modest poets were waking up prophets. I became sorely aware of how few poems I had written, and that these few had been finished at the latest three or four years earlier. Their style seemed distant, symbol-ridden and willfully difficult. I began to paraphrase my Latin quotations, and to add extra syllables to a line to make it clearer and more colloquial. I felt my old poems hid what they were really about, and many times offered a stiff, humorless and even impenetrable surface. I am no convert to the "beats." I know well too that the best poems are not necessarily poems that read aloud. Many of the greatest poems can only be read to oneself, for inspiration is no substitute for humor, shock, narrative and a hypnotic voice, the four musts for oral performance. Still, my own poems seemed like prehistoric monsters dragged down into the bog and death by their ponderous armor. I was reciting what I no longer felt. . . . When I returned to my home, I began writing lines in a new style." --
       [Lowell, in the symposium "On Robert Lowell's 'Skunk Hour,'" in The Contemporary Poet as Artist and Critic, ed. Anthony Ostroff (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1964)]


August Saint-Gaudens, Shaw Memorial (1897)



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