Poets & Madness

robert lowell    Robert Lowell

“Lowell could not control his illness with the power of his will or understanding. When he was prescribed lithium in his fiftieth year, he was given a new medical explanation: “All the psychiatry and therapy I’ve had, almost 19 years, was as irrelevant as it would have been for a broken leg.  Well some of it was interesting, tho most was jargon.”  Lithium treatment relieved him from suffering the idea that he was morally and emotionally responsible for the fact that he relapsed.  However, it did not entirely prevent relapses.  And whether his symproms were meaningless , whether it was true that ” ‘Where you are going Professor,/ you won’t need your Dante,’ ” was a harder question to answer.*  He did not stop trying to find language for the experience of being terribly drawn from himself.  And he was troubled and anxious about the impact of his relapses on his family and friends until the end of his life.”
 
* “Visitors,” Day by Day (1977) 
 
From:  
The Letters of Robert Lowell
ed. Saskia Hamilton Faber & Faber (2005) p xvii
 
 
 
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