In his Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Robert Lowell put his manic-depressive illness (now known as bipolar disorder)Â into the public domain, creating a language for madness that was new and arresting. As Dr. Jamison brings her expertise in mood disorders to bear on Lowellâs story, she illuminates not only the relationships among mania, depression, and creativity but also the details of Lowellâs treatment and how illness and treatment influenced the great work that he produced (and often became its subject). Lowellâs New England roots, early breakdowns, marriages to three eminent writers, friendships with other poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, his many hospitalizations, his vivid presence as both a teacher and a maker of poemsâJamison gives us the poetâs life through a lens that focuses our understanding of his intense discipline, courage, and commitment to his art. Jamison had unprecedented access to Lowellâs medical records, as well as to previously unpublished drafts and fragments of poems, and she is the first biographer to have spoken with his daughter, Harriet Lowell. With this new material and a psychologistâs deep insight, Jamison delivers a bold, sympathetic account of a poet who wasâboth despite and because of mental illnessâa passionate, original observer of the human condition.
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