Ogden and Hardwick’s everyday enigmas

Stephanie Hershinow in PublicBooks:

Those who don’t already admire Hardwick’s writing likely know her from her marriage to poet Robert Lowell. It is at times a lurid story. A masterful poet, Lowell was also bipolar at a time when treatment was (as it still can be for many) uncertain and inconsistent. During manic episodes, he could be cruel to his wife. (“Everybody has noticed that you’ve been getting pretty dumb lately,” he told her during one episode.) While she worked to keep their household together, ensure bills were paid, and oversee his care, he would call her family to tell them he never loved her. His mania often coincided with brazen affairs; friends, colleagues, and even doctors sometimes suspected Hardwick of jealousy when she tried to get him help. When he finally left her after 20 years of marriage, he wrote a collection of poems—dedicated to his new wife, Caroline Blackwood—that excerpted his ex-wife’s plaintive letters to him and (perhaps the worse betrayal) fabricated others without noting the difference. The Dolphin was condemned by friends like Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich, but it also won the National Book Award. (In a published review, Rich called the book “one of the most vindictive and mean-spirited acts in the history of poetry.”) Years later, Lowell and Hardwick reconciled. Visiting her in New York not long after, he took a taxi from the airport and died before arriving. Summoned by the cab driver, Hardwick rode alongside Lowell to the hospital, knowing that he was already dead.

More here.