Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: Skunk Hour
Volume: Selected Poems
Year: Published/Written in 1976
Poem of the Day:
Aug 10 2009
Comment 5 of 5, added on August 12th, 2010 at 2:07 AM.
"the season's ill", although refers to the seasonal change but it implicates a diseased civilization. with expression "my mind's not right", the poet seems to loose insanity at the depressive prospect that greets him in his search of love. the love song that blares from the radio seems to be bleating meaninglessly in the atmosphere of general sterility. the appearence to skunks, looking for something to eat at a deadly hour, is the only sign of life and therefore survival.
Sarab Singh from India
Comment 4 of 5, added on December 3rd, 2008 at 2:09 PM.
That phrase 'I myself am hell' has always stuck in my mind when thinking about Lowell's confessionalism, and about confessional poetry in general. Its most wellknown practitioners have often been writers who have suffered from psychiatric illness and hospitalisation, and have sort to express this personal experience of inner turmoil in hard-hitting verse. The excerpt describing the car radio 'bleating' and the poet hearing in its song his own 'ill-spirit sob in each blood cell / as if my hand were at its throat' is a chillingly suicidal and audio-hallucinogenic metaphor for self-abjection, as is 'I myself am hell./ Nobody's here'...which reminds one of Arthur Rimbaud's desperate statement 'I is another'. One can see the beginnings of the line of self-expression which Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath also experimented with after attended Lowell's workshops.
from United Kingdom
Comment 3 of 5, added on August 17th, 2008 at 2:55 PM.
This poem sort of flew into my house like a stray summer baseball, but there was no wide-eyed child to be dismayed by my broken window. So I was in no hurry to pitch the poem back out, and had the leisure to handle it a bit.
I am a scientist by training, though now old enough to be more appreciative than analytical. I have no notion of poetry neither of Mr Lowell and Ms Bishop (perhaps the mother of Bishop Bishop?) nor, even, of Nautilus Island. I presume this scene to be of our US Northeast, as he lives in a ‘village’ governed by ‘selectmen,’ nomenclature which sounds, mmm, quaint to my Northwestern ears.
Okay. That is the “I” who speaks to you here.
The poem has a rhythm of promise and despair. It begins with the promise of a village with roots and a heritage but then traces it’s decay. The summer millionaire is gone and the heiress is in her dotage. A red fox stain covers Blue Hill. Perhaps the local ‘landed gentry’ no longer ride to hounds and the red foxes once again roam ad libitum. The ‘fairy decorator’ - frost? - brightens the lobsterman’s shop for fall; it is abandoned and cold. Nature taking over what had once been the realm of human activity, the heiress herself promoting it with purchases of old houses to let them fall.
Then, in a Poe-esque turn, his car takes over and carries him up ‘the hill’s skull’ to where love-cars take over the cemetery. Love-cars with radio blaring is so evocative of the American soul nowadays conceived, born, and raised in a car. (Yet how we yearn for the soul of the humble immigrant become the soul of the Western high country!) His nostalgia for his own youth becomes melancholy, despair, and a momentary vision of his own annihilation.
And then the skunks take centre stage, marching down Main Street (the stripes in the pavement?) to become the hero of the play. They (and the foxes and the frost) are the ones who do assure the continuity of that place and its deep, rich life-enhancing air. The mother skunk and her kits make life of our garbage ‘and will not scare’.
Okay. That’s the poem of which I speak.
The baseball’s on the coffee table and my window is repaired.
Susan Jeswine O'Shea
from United States
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