Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV (March 1, 1917 – September 12, 1977) was an American poet, considered to be one of the founders of the confessional poetry movement. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Lowell received his high school education at St. Mark's School, where he met and was influenced by the poet Richard Eberhart. Then Lowell attended Harvard College for two years before transferring to Kenyon College to study under John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate. After Lowell graduated from Kenyon in 1940 with a degree in Classics, he worked on a Master’s degree in English literature at Louisiana State University for one year before World War II broke out. Lowell was a conscientious objector during World War II and served several months at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.
Lowell's first book of poems, Land of Unlikeness (1944), did not receive much attention. However, in 1946, Lowell received wide acclaim for his next book, Lord Weary's Castle, which included five poems slightly revised from Land of Unlikeness, plus thirty new poems and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. Lowell won the National Book Award for poetry in 1960 for Life Studies which was published in 1959. Lowell followed Life Studies with Imitations (1961), a volume of loose translations of poems by classical and modern European poets, including Rilke, Montale, Baudelaire, Pasternak, and Rimbaud, for which he received the 1962 Bollingen Poetry Translation Prize. In 1964, Lowell also tried his hand at playwriting with three, one-act plays that were meant to be performed together as a trilogy, titled The Old Glory.
During 1967 and 1968 he experimented with a verse journal, published as Notebook 1967-68 (and later republished in a revised edition, titled Notebook). Lowell referred to these fourteen-line poems as sonnets although they sometimes failed to incorporate regular meter and never incorporated rhyme. The last work in Lowell's sonnet sequence, The Dolphin (1973), won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize. Lowell published his last volume of poetry, Day by Day, in 1977, the year of his death. In May 1977, Lowell won the $10,000 National Medal for Literature awarded by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and Day by Day was awarded that year's National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry.
From 1950 to 1953, Lowell taught in the well-reputed Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Over the years, he taught at a number of other universities including Boston University, the University of Cincinnati, Yale University, Harvard University, and the New School for Social Research.