Robert Lowell’s “Raw” and “Cooked” Poetics: From the Formal Traditions of Modernism to the Transformations of the Confessionals

Main Article Content

Ikram Hili

Abstract

In 1960, Robert Lowell won the National Poetry Award for his collection Life Studies. In his Award Acceptance Speech, Lowell talked about two types of poetry that were, at the time, vying for prominence: “cooked,” tightly-structured poetry which, following the formal dictates of New Criticism, can only be “digested by a graduate seminar;” and “raw,” more loosely-patterned poetry which, breaching the New Critical poetic decorum, can be delightfully “dished up for midnight listeners” (Lowell 1960). An appraisal of Lowell’s works, therefore, shows that his poetry itself is a mixed bag, in the sense that his early poems read as “cooked” poetry, while his late poems are the ones that have catapulted him into the revolutionary realm of “raw” aesthetics. Here, I introduce Confessional poetry and the sweeping aesthetic transformations it has brought about. But it is always worthwhile to note that, breaking with the Modernist tradition of impersonality, Confessional poetry has often been denounced as visceral, introspective, and self-centered. A deeper appreciation of this literary mode, of Lowell’s late poetry in particular, shows that the personal is but a gateway to wider political and cultural concerns, for it presents a first-person speaker resistant to the pressure to conform to the overall containment culture of the fifties and early sixties in the United States.

Article Details

How to Cite
Hili, I. (2019). Robert Lowell’s “Raw” and “Cooked” Poetics: From the Formal Traditions of Modernism to the Transformations of the Confessionals. Humanities Bulletin, 2(1), 221-231. Retrieved from https://www.journals.lapub.co.uk/index.php/HB/article/view/486
Section
Articles