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Analysis and comments on Skunk Hour by Robert Lowell

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Comment 5 of 10, added on August 12th, 2010 at 2:07 AM.
Skunk Hour

"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 10, 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.

Dave Younger from United Kingdom
Comment 3 of 10, 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

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
Comment 2 of 10, added on July 5th, 2008 at 5:36 AM.

The poet is full of despair of what he sees around his society and brings
forth the meaningless life the people lead.He curses him of being one at
the moment and suddenly finds a ray of hope in his existence on seeing the
mother skunk and its kttens rummaging the garbage for the leftovers for

rosy davies from India
Comment 1 of 10, added on February 23rd, 2006 at 8:29 PM.

The poet is so much frustrated of the emptiness and futility of the
American civilization that he finds each and every aspect of the society
spiritually failure but the poem moves from the frustration to the
individual revitalization when he observes the skunks living with the
garbages blissfully.

Dibya from Nepal

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Information about Skunk Hour

Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: Skunk Hour
Volume: Selected Poems
Year: 1976
Added: Oct 29 2004
Viewed: 83 times
Poem of the Day: Aug 10 2009

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