POETS Day! Robert Lowell’s The Dolphin

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Today we salute the unsung heroes of POETS Day. The Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday promise of freedom, relaxation, and entertainment ushered in a few hours before the official start of the weekend would go unfulfilled were it not for those willing to work while we play. To the bartenders, Uber drivers, ticket takers, and legally registered Nevada prostitutes we offer a heartfelt thanks. You are the wind beneath our wings. Let’s not let their sacrifice be in vain. Dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins (provided you tip), lay comfortably in the grass at a local park (be sure and tell the groundskeeper how much you appreciate his work), go for a swim (fake like you’re drowning so the lifeguard can add a “Local Hero” newspaper clipping to his college applications), or God forbid, go for a light jog (thank the… jogging is antisocial.) It’s your weekend. Give a nod to those whose labors let you do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.


Robert Lowell’s The Dolphin, published in 1973, won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Lowell’s second; the first being for 1947’s Lord Weary’s Castle. He was the most confessional of the Confessional Poets, a name given by critics, often over the objections of the poets, rather than a formal association. As the name would imply, the Confessional Poets, Sylvia PlathJohn Berryman, and Anne Sexton among others, delved into their personal lives as all poets will, but they went further, blurring the line between person and persona and exposing aspects regarded usually as deeply private. Despite the Pulitzer, The Dolphin will likely be remembered as the book where Lowell went too far.

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