Robert Lowell’s Skunk Hour
We all love a good scare once and a while, that is why we invite the nightmares and spooks ( especially around Halloween. ) what is unique, and, “ultimately disturbing” (Shmoop Editorial team) about this poem is that Robert Lowell didn’t have to write about scary stories to create that “spooky effect ” (Shmoop Editorial Team) the speaker of the poem admits to being mentally ill, has chronic depression and that is nightmarish enough. Nothing scary happens in the poem. Lowell just roams the seaside aimlessly through the day and night. But what we readers discover is that the speaker is “caught in the haunted house of his mind and all the doors are locked” (Shmoop Editorial Team)
It was widely know that Robert Lowell and poet Elizabeth were very close friends. It was even rumored that Lowell had proposed to Bishop but she refused. They constantly wrote to each other and wanted one another’s opinion on their poetry. In 1948, Bishop wrote to Lowell confessing that she, too, became depressed periodically and how the fog reminded her of him. Lowell must have quite enjoyed the letter because he then dedicated this poem in 1958 to Bishop. It took place on the coast of Main and it’s all about being alone and depressed. Skunk Hour takes us deep into the hollowed out heart of a man who searches for substance, like the skunk.
Throughout the poem, the skunk wanders about the town. Doing things like looking for “a bite to eat” (Lowell) Reed says the mother skunk is a role model. The mother skunk isn’t “intimidated nor frightened” by the evils of the world. The skunk “will not scare” (Lowell) if man could get sustenance in a corrupt world then “he, too, would not scare” (Lowell) the skunk accepts its responsibilities as a provider for its family. It knows the risk of danger and yet still continues on for the sake of its family. In a way, the skunk is a hopeful roe model....
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