Purses

i.m. Kate Spade

When our Quiz Bowl team of eighteen-year-olds snagged
……..a berth in the finals, held in New York City,

……..my small-town Minnesotan brain cells dizzied—
at last I’d be some place that mattered. Swag

was my teammate Anne’s fixation: knockoff bags
……..peddled in Chinatown, affixed with glitzy

……..Kate Spade labels. Anne bought a sack of six,
then forgot it on the airport shuttle’s shag

seats; someone swiped it within minutes. Kate,
……..I learned a fact of womanhood that year:

even we knockoff girls, cheap, desperate
to look like someone else, to imitate

A Review of Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire

Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character
by Kay Redfield Jamison
(Knopf, 2017, 532 pp., $29.95, hardcover)

Early in Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character, Kay Redfield Jamison recounts an anecdote about the poet Robert Lowell that Lowell himself was known to enjoy telling as an illustration of his “eccentric” nature. In a letter addressed to Ezra Pound, the then-nineteen-year-old Harvard student Lowell describes how, “overcome by the collecting mania,” he once penned up thirty-odd turtles in a well, where the unlucky reptiles subsequently “died of insufficient feeding.” This anecdote, which Jamison wisely includes without commentary, allowing the facts to speak for themselves, could be said to encapsulate a good deal of what made Lowell Lowell: his tendency toward reckless and obsessive ambition that more than once caused others around him to suffer, but also the self-deprecating humor with which he honestly owned up to his faults and happily incorporated them into his own self-mythology.