Epilogue – Robert Lowell

Those blessed structures, plot and rhyme –
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All’s misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, 1657, Johannes Vermeer:

7 thoughts on “Epilogue

  1. Beautiful! Wonderful! Thank you!

  2. Bill says:

    I agree — thank you! Takes me back — I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Lowell at one of his readings about 40 years ago. He was a truly remarkable talent — I’d recommend Life Studies to anyone who wants to look more deeply into his work.

    I didn’t meet Vermeer — although there are some Monday mornings when I feel as though I could have 🙂

    • artmodel says:


      Wow, you met Robert Lowell! That’s an incredible memory and experience to have. The Lowells – Robert and Amy – are two of my favorite poets. I really should read LIfe Studies. I know he suffered terribly from manic depression.

      Thanks so much, Bill, for sharing that. And I liked your comment about Vermeer 😉


      This is a very nice picture of Lowell:

      • Bill says:

        That is a good photo, thanks! (Hmm — just noticed that he was my current age when he died. Glad I’m not superstitious 🙂

        How I met him — true story. He had just finished his poetry reading, and there was a crowd of people around him. I had brought along a small paperback edition of one of his earlier books — figuring I’d ask for an autograph. Well, everyone else had the hardcover edition of his new book. I didn’t have it (or the money to buy it, either — I was an impoverished college kid) — so I was too embarrassed to ask him to autograph the paperback.

        So when he turned to me, I screwed up my courage and said, “You know, Mr.Lowell, I collect handshakes.” He looked a little surprised, but then he broke into this big grin and stuck out his hand. So that’s how I met him.

  3. Bill says:

    Naw, I was too embarrassed. But the handshake idea seemed far more personal — so I adopted it. I’ve also found that, if I ever do encounter a male celebrity whom I respect/admire and I stick out my hand, the natural response seems to be for him to shake it. (I’m not sure if women would respond in the same way, though.) It’s kind of cool — the sense of physical touch makes it feels like more of a human encounter.

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