Kathleen Spivack has written a wonderful book, WITH ROBERT LOWELL AND HIS CIRCLE (Northeastern University Press), which chronicles how as a young student from Ohio she studied with Lowell in the famous workshops he gave that included Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Spivack was able to maintain a deep friendship with Lowell for the rest of his life, despite his madness, erratic personality, occasional cruelty, his elitism, and his mixed attitudes towards women. (No woman could be a major poet, yet he supported and fostered several who obviously were.)
This book has vivid portraits of Adrienne Rich, and Elizabeth Bishop, among others. Kathleen Spivack’s multi-faceted friendship with Anne Sexton makes that glittering self destructive genius seem much more like a real person than usual accounts.
It is a beautifully written book by Spivack, who is memorable as both a poet and prose writer.
And yet it made me realize in a deeper way than before why I left Boston, fleeing as if for my life when I was twenty-six, headed for San Francisco.
I did not study with Robert Lowell at Harvard, though I had the chance. I attended the first day of class, and he scared me. The lights were not on in the room. Lowell wandered about, introverted, mumbling, asking, what is that noise? It was the lawn mower outside. It unnerved me. I dropped the class and worked instead with Robert Fitzgerald, the classicist.
To be continued.