Two Versions, 1972-1973
Robert Lowell, Saskia Hamilton
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself—
to ask compassion . . . this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting
my eyes have seen what my hand did.
Winner of the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, The Dolphin was controversial from the beginning: many of the poems include the letters that Robert Lowell’s wife, the celebrated writer and critic Elizabeth Hardwick, wrote to him after he left her for the English socialite and writer Caroline Blackwood. He was warned by many, among them Elizabeth Bishop, that “art just isn’t worth that much.” Nevertheless, these poems are a powerful document of an impulsive love, and a moving record of Lowell’s change from one life and marriage in America to a new life on new terms with a new family in England, rendered with the stunning technical power and control for which he was so celebrated. This new edition, which follows the 1973 edition, includes scans of the pages of Lowell’s original manuscript, giving us a look into the brilliant and complicated mind of one of our most beloved and distinguished poets.