Robert Pinsky on His Many Readings of Robert Lowell

Robert Pinsky in Literary Hub:

Life Studies is Robert Lowell’s best-​known and most influential book. It won the National Book Award for poetry in 1960. I read it in 1962 and I hated it. In a shallow way, my dislike was a matter of social class. I said aloud to Lowell’s book, “Yeah, I had a grandfather, too.” Like my fellow would-​be urban Beatniks at Rutgers, I preferred the manners of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish”—​the poet reading the Hebrew prayer for the dead while listening to Ray Charles and walking the streets of Greenwich Village.

A year later, when I arrived as a graduate student at Stanford, I entered a culture more bucolic than what I had known at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—​the home state of Ginsberg, with urban New Brunswick about an hour from those Village streets. Surrounding the sleepy Palo Alto of those days, an actual village, the future Silicon Valley was still a place of horse ranches and apricot orchards. Leland and Jane Stanford had founded the university on their ranch, in 1891, and the school’s affectionate nickname for itself was “the Farm.” In Palo Alto, too, as in the quite different literary and urban terrain of Rutgers, Robert Lowell’s poetry was not held in the first rank of importance.

But five or six years later, in 1970, I took a job teaching at Wellesley College, not far from Boston and Cambridge, where I met poets who considered Life Studies a major work of art.

More here.