Art and EgotismnIan Hamilton: Robert Lowell: AnBiography; Random House; NewnYork.nl111jam Fifield: In Search ofGenitis;nWilliam Morrow; New York.nby Robert C. SteensmanWhen the definitive history of 20thcenturynAmerican poetry is eventuallynwritten, the work of Robert Lowell willnprobably occupy a prominent place innthe discussion. From the appearance ofnhis first volume, Land of Unlikenessn(1944), to his last, The Dolphin (1973),nLowell was one of the most seriouslynand enthusiastically received poets ofnour time, and his influence on hisncontemporaries and followers was immensenand occasionally destructive.nDescendant of two eminent New Englandnfemilies and a convert to Roman Catholicism,nhe perhaps resembled his kinsmannColonel Robert Gould Shaw, a CivU Warnhero and the central figure in his “Fornthe Union Dead”:nHe has an angry wrenlike vigilance,na greyhound’s gentle taumess;nhe seems to wince at pleasure,nand suffocate for privacy.nDriven by his private demons of alcoholnand disastrous marriages, haunted bynmemories of a failed fether and a harddrivingnmother, Lowell neverthelessndominated the generation of Americannpoets after T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, andnRobert Frost.nIan Hamilton’s biography of Lowell isna significant achievement. Trying to dealnsympathetically but honestly with anpsyche and genius as tortured as Lowell’snis difiicult enougji—especially if the biographernavoids the trap of dime-storenpsychoanalysis—but the problem isncompounded by Lowell’s achievement,nDr. Steensma is ivith the department ofnEnglish at the University of Utah.nthe breadth of his influence, and thenshortness of our historical perspective.nOther biographers have done it welln(Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway,nArthur and Barbara Gelb’s O’Neill, fornexample). This is biography with then”warts on,” which holds the reader innfecinated ambivalence by a tangled webnof achievement and personal horrornHamilton, however, does not resort tonexhibitionism and voyeurism, the hallmarksnof both popular and scholarlynbiography today.nLoweU came early to literary prominencenat the age of 27 with mixed reviewsnfrom several important critics.nArthur Mizener was disturbed thatnLoweU’s “hysteria may be mistaken forndirectness, the accidental personal experiencenfor the generally valid,” whilenR P. Blackmur su^ested that in the earlynpoetry “there is nothing loved unless itnbe its repeUence… there is not a lovingnmeter in the book.” On the other hand,nJohn Frederick Nims felt that the samenpoems were “an intricate counterpointnof form and diction, form and matter,nfeeling and idea.” And so it was to continuenfor another 14 volumes of poetrynproduced during 23 years. By the timenof his death in a New York taxi in 1977nat the age of 60 he was hailed in certainncircles as the premier poet of his timenand was the mentor of a large niunber ofnIn the Mailnyounger poets who imitated—oftennslavishly, badly—^his form and content,nstrewing their pages with confessionalnpoetry of the most tasteless kind.nHellish marriages to Jean Stafford andnElizabeth Hardwick, both of them establishednwriters, a dozen mental breakdownsnand subsequent stays in institutions,nand an unfortunate involvementnin the Byzantine intellectual fraud ofnthe antiwar movement during the Vietnamnyears, when his reputation andnnaivete were exploited by the demagogues—^allnwere symptomatic of afl-agilengenius for whom normal human relationshipsnwere at best diflicult and at worstndestructive. The deprofundis of his personalnlife, however, often enhanced hisncreativity, and, as he hurtled throughnmadness to death, he ironically assurednhis place in American letters.nBut there was another dark side tonhis career. Surrounded by a circle ofncontemporaries who either lived off hisnweaknesses or were helpless to stop hisndescent into the maelstrom, he unwittinglynencouraged the confessional andnsuicidal tendencies of some of his youngnaposties, notably Sylvia Plath and AnnenSexton, both of whom studied undernhim at Boston University. LoweU and thentwo women seemed to personify Rimbaud’sndemonic prescription that thenpoet must become “a seer by a long, im-nEarthy Mysticism: Contemplation and the life of Passionate Presence by WilliamnMcNamara; Crossroad; New York. On the opening page the author says of the mystic: “Henknows he is in exile on earth; but he also knows that his exile is erotic, so he makes the most of it.”nThat’s earthy.nThe US. Intelligence Community by Stafford T. Thomas; University Press of America;nWasliington, D.C. Once upon a time, there were secret agents. Now there are those, like Mr.nThomas, who examine the “intelligence community” and tell “what it really is like, what it reallyndoes.”nContexts of Behavior: AnOiropological Dimensions by RobertJ. Maxwell; Nelson-Hall;nChicago. Anthropology, thanks to a certain French structuralist, has become all the r^e lately.nPointing out that man lives in natural and artificial environments, however, is not enou^ to carryna text on a modish subject.nnnSeptember 1983n