Robert Lowell was born into a reputable family on March 1, 1917 in Boston, Massachusetts. His ancestors included famous poets, politicians, and military personnel. He was education at prestigious academies in Boston, where he became interested in poetry during his high school years. Upon graduation he began a university education at Harvard. There he interacted with notable poets such as Robert Frost and Merrill Moore. Unhappy at Harvard, Lowell left the school after two years. He then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and continued to befriend poets. He published his first poetry collection, Land of Unlikeness, in 1944. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his second collection, Lord Weary's Castle, published two years later. The prize greatly increased his recognition as an esteemed poet.
In the early 1950s, Lowell attended the famed Iowa Writer's Workshop. After finishing the program, he was offered a position teaching English at Boston University in his home city. He taught at the institution for over a decade. After over 8 years without a publication, Lowell released Life Studies in 1959. It would proceed to win the National Book Award for Poetry the following year. In the 1960s, he embarked upon a series of translations, including works by Rainer Maria Rilke and Arthur Rimbaud. During the same decade, he also became increasingly vocal in his opposition to the Vietnam War. His involvement in anti-war demonstrations is featured in Norman Mailer's acclaimed work Armies of the Night. He would continue to endorse Democrat politicians until his death.
Lowell continued working into the 1970s. His series of sonnets, released in three segments, were maligned by critics, however his last work, Day by Day, published in 1977 was well-received. The same year he suffered a heart attack and died shortly after. The comprehensive compendium Collected Poems was released three decades later in 2003. It demonstrates Lowell's evolution as a poet, including his forays into different styles such as sonnets. It contains the vast majority of his published work, and was republished in expanded form in 2006.