In this magisterial study of the relationship between illness and art, the best-selling author of An Unquiet Mind brings a fresh perspective to the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell. In his poetry, Lowell put his manic-depressive illness (now known as bipolar disorder) into the public domain, and in the process created a new and arresting language for madness. Here Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison brings her expertise in mood disorders to bear on Lowell's story, illuminating not only the relationships between mania, depression, and creativity but also how Lowell's illness and treatment influenced his work (and often became its subject). A bold, sympathetic account of a poet who was--both despite and because of mental illness--a passionate, original observer of the human condition.
Robert Lowell once remarked in a letter to Elizabeth Bishop that "you ha ve] always been my favorite poet and favorite friend."
The feeling was mutual. Bishop said that conversation with Lowell left her feeling "picked up again to the proper table-land of poetry," and she once begged him, "Please never stop writing me letters--they always manage to make me feel like my higher self (I've been re-reading Emerson) for several days." Neither ever stopped writing letters, from their first meeting in 1947 when both were young, newly launched poets until Lowell's death in 1977.
Presented in Words in Air is the complete correspondence between Bishop and Lowell. The substantial, revealing--and often very funny--interchange that they produced stands as a remarkable collective achievement, notable for its sustained conversational brilliance of style, its wealth of literary history, its incisive snapshots and portraits of people and places, and its delicious literary gossip, as well as for the window it opens into the unfolding human and artistic drama of two of America's most beloved and influential poets.