Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV (/ˈloʊəl/; March 1, 1917 – September 12, 1977) was an American poet. He was born into a Boston Brahmin family that could trace its origins back to the Mayflower. His family, past and present, were important subjects in his poetry. Growing up in Boston also informed his poems, which were frequently set in Boston and the New England region. The literary scholar Paula Hayes believes that Lowell mythologized New England, particularly in his early work.
Lowell stated, "The poets who most directly influenced me ... were Allen Tate, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams. An unlikely combination! ... but you can see that Bishop is a sort of bridge between Tate's formalism and Williams's informal art." Lowell was capable of writing both formal, metered verse as well as free verse; his verse in some poems from Life Studies and Notebook fell somewhere in between metered and free verse.
After the publication of his 1959 book Life Studies, which won the 1960 National Book Award and "featured a new emphasis on intense, uninhibited discussion of personal, family, and psychological struggles," he was considered an important part of the confessional poetry movement. However, much of Lowell's work, which often combined the public with the personal, did not conform to a typical "confessional poetry" model. Instead, Lowell worked in a number of distinctive stylistic modes and forms over the course of his career.
He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, where he served from 1947 until 1948. In addition to winning the National Book Award, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1947 and 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1947. He is "widely considered one of the most important American poets of the postwar era." His biographer Paul Mariani called him "the poet-historian of our time" and "the last of [America's] influential public poets."