Robert Lowell: Scenes from a Life by Jeffrey Meyers

Lowell met Elizabeth Hardwick at Yaddo, the writers’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the summer of 1948. One of eleven children in a Kentucky family, Hardwick (born 1916 and married to Lowell from 1949 to 1972) loved Lowell with extreme devotion and, like Antigone with the aged Oedipus, was willing to sacrifice herself to protect him. Endlessly masochistic, she had a remarkable capacity for suffering and endurance. In Bartleby in Manhattan (1984), writing with Lowell in mind, Hardwick noted that the artist looks at his own “drunkenness, infidelities, vanities, madness . . . with a ruthless, acerbic intimacy,” but fails to notice their destructive effect on other people. Lowell used Hardwick’s harrowing personal letters in his penultimate book, The Dolphin (1973), written when they were estranged and italicized in his poems, though he knew that publishing them would humiliate and torment her. For Lowell, his art was worth her pain. Guilt-ridden and ruthlessly remorseful, he quotes her furious condemnation for wavering between herself and Blackwood, for being a hypocrite and not realizing the suffering he’d caused:

You can’t carry your talent with you like a suitcase.
Don’t you dare mail us the love your life denies;
Do you really know what you have done?

read more in the current issue of Salmagundi


A Poem by Marie-Caroline Moir

from our new issue . . .



That notion, sweetheart, ocean eyes,
is an assload of mawkish bunk.

What we got here are fathomless shallows,
legions of ‘em.
Jacques’s five-fingered special: rien.
The Cousteau cop-a-feel: merde, le même histoire.

Here’s nothing but the salty truth:

Every disease ends in yellow.


There ain’t a bone in this port
big enough for my wishing.

What a drag-ola my empty net;
there’s nothing here I can’t resist.

American Despair in an Age of Hope

Salmagundi #176 features an essay on the suicide of Colonel Theodore S. Westhusing in Iraq by Peter Fosl and a sharp exchange about the piece with Stewart Justman.

Here’s the opening of Fosl’s essay along with the redacted document reproduced in his reply to Justman:

On the hot, clear afternoon of June 5, 2005, US Army Col. Theodore S. Westhusing, after meeting with private contractors and a few colleagues, retreated to room 602A of the trailer where he’d been temporarily billeted near the Baghdad airport. The day’s meetings had been unusually tense and difficult, their aftermath even worse. There alone, at some point during the next few hours, in that 10 by 38 ft space containing little more than a bed, a bathroom, and a small desk, after scrawling a note to his commanders and family, Westhusing placed the barrel of his Beretta 9 mm pistol behind his left ear and blew his brains out.

Geoff Dyer’s Literary Allergy: David Foster Wallace

From a guest column in our new issue:

“It’s taken years of unscientific tests, but I now accept that there is such a thing as literary allergy. . . . I have always felt well disposed towards the widely acclaimed David Foster Wallace, whose latest novel, The Pale King, was published two and a half years after his suicide. But I am allergic to his writing.”

Fear & Trembling: Slouching Toward November 2012


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If last night’s debate left you less than fulfilled, why not sink into some real thinking about this American moment from the pages of our new pre-election issue: Peter Fosl on American Despair, James Miller on Progress, Martin Jay on Neo-Liberalism, and Patrick Keane on Recurrence and Returns—plus new poetry, fiction, and columns.

Seferis on Poetry


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This weekend included a visit to the book sale at the St. Mark’s May Fair in New Canaan where we found a well-read copy of George Seferis’s poems in English which included these lines:

The poem is everywhere. Your voice
sometimes travels beside it
like a dolphin keeping company for a while
with a golden sloop in the sunlight,
then vanishing again.

Here’s a photograph of Seferis and a link to an interview with the poet from the Paris Review:


Rick Moody’s On Celestial Music


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Rick Moody’s On Celestial Music

We’re reading with great pleasure and profit Rick Moody’s rich and varied new book of essays on music, the title essay of which first appeared in Salmagundi and was chosen for Best American Essays.

We can recommend, among many worthwhile offerings, the investigation into The Who’s Pete Townshend and the subject of child abuse which is deeply humane, generous as well as unsparing, steeped in the music and the best thing we’ve ever read on this artist and his band.

And the way the title essay moves from, say, a theological/moral close reading of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sparrow” to the divorce of the author’s parents from one paragraph to the next gives some sense of the range in play throughout the volume.

Here’s a sentence, as insightful as it is wry and heartbreaking, from the section in that essay called “Heaven and Premium Stereo Equipment”: “My parents had this new stereo system, in a big wooden cabinet in the living room. It was a hi-fi, in the classic sense of the term, and it was maybe the expensive hi-fi that they bought to convince themselves, through amplification, that they were more allied and resilient than they were.”