Other Books

lowel_3With Robert Lowell and His Circle, 2012
University Press of New England
ISBN: 978-1-55553-788-3  

In 1959 Kathleen Spivack won a fellowship to study at Boston University with Robert Lowell. Her fellow students were Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, among others. Thus began a relationship with the famous poet and his circle that would last to the end of his life in 1977 and beyond. Spivack presents a lovingly rendered story of her time among some of the most esteemed artists of a generation. Part memoir, part loose collection of anecdotes, artistic considerations, and soulful yet clear-eyed reminiscences of a lost time and place, hers is an intimate portrait of the often suffering Lowell, the great and near great artists he attracted, his teaching methods, his private world, and the significant legacy he left to his students. Through the story of a youthful artist finding her poetic voice among literary giants, Spivack thoughtfully considers how poets work. She looks at friendships, addiction, despair, perseverance and survival, and how social changes altered lives and circumstances. This is a beautifully written portrait of friends who loved and lived words, and made great beauty together.

A touching and deeply revealing look into the lives and thoughts of some of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, With Robert Lowell and His Circle will appeal to writers, students, and thoughtful literary readers, as well as to scholars.” For some of what people have been saying about the book, click here, and for a list of readings and presentations I’ve done around it, click here.

Here’s some of what people are saying about With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and Others. (Quotes used with permission.) You can purchase the book through independent bookstores here.

In Print

Michael Dirda in the Washington Post | Valerie Duff in the Boston Globe | Jan Gardner in the Boston Globe | Irene Koronas in the Wilderness House Review | Harvard Magazine | Radcliffe Magazine Bostonia | Additional reviews in the Kansas City Star, Providence Journal, and Seattle Post Intelligencer

Around the Web

Elizabeth Bishop Blog | Good Books Guide | GotPoetry | Doug Holder |Grub Street | The Somerville News | Richard Marcus at BlogcriticsAndrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast | Miriam Sagan: Part 1 and Part 2 | The Kenyon Review | Louis MayeuxLeslie PietrzykMaria Padhila | Poetry Kit BlogMass Poetry | Antigonish Review | Prairie Schooner  | Richard Marcus at Leap in the Dark | Bostonia | B O D Y Literature | Notre Dame Review Leslie Pietryzk

Don Share, senior editor, Poetry Magazine.

“I devoured your book in one sitting last weekend; it’s extraordinarily evocative of the poet and his time, your time.  Thank you so much for writing it…”

Elizabeth Knoll, executive editor, Harvard University Press.

I have been absorbed in your book for the last couple of days and have found it wonderfully evocative, illuminating, and generous….

“Your portrait of Lowell (“and his circle”) is obviously the centerpiece of the book. He and everyone else walk out of the pages, talking…. What appeals to me almost as much as the portraits of the people, though,  is your descriptions of the places, especially Cambridge. In these days of expensive chic boutiques and expensive fashionable food, when one can’t get through Harvard Yard without dodging tour groups from China and Japan, those shabby literary days seem  a long time ago. So I am grateful to have such a vision from you of what it used to be like.

“In any case, thank you for the many years that you spent thinking about, interviewing for, and writing your book. It is a gem for the University Press of New England.”

Buy With Robert Lowell and His Circle by supporting independent bookstores here:Shop Indie Bookstores


Blog, Yearning Bookcover A History of Yearning, 2010
Winner, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Chapbook Contest
ISSN: 1535-5462;  ISBN:978-0-615-39406-0  

“This collection is the winner of the annual chapbook competition 2009. Most of these poems begin with paintings and photographs, and rise from them as fragrance rises from spring flowers after a hard winter, a gift to us from language that survives and blooms and brings us pleasures we hardly know how to name. Kathleen Spivack has created another in her series of award-winning books, a crowning achievement that lifts darkness and light and mixes them with consummate skill, passion, and the wide experience of a docent in the living museum of our time.”  This little book went on to place or win several book contests, among them the  Massachusetts, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and London ( first prize) awards for the best poetry book published that year. Many of the individual poems in  A History of Yearning won their own individual prizes as well. I loved writing  and organizing this book especially, and the poems have a special meaning for me.


moments cover imageMoments of Past Happiness, 2007 
Earthwinds Editions
ISBN: 0-9767760-1-4 

This book of poems deals with the meaning of crafts and hand made objects in our lives. Edited by Ifeanyi Menkiti, owner of the Grolier Poetry Bookshop, which published this collection, the poems are accompanied by beautiful art by Karyll Klopp, the director of the former Pomegranite Press.


honeymoon3The Honeymoon, 1986 (short stories)
Graywolf Press
ISBN: 0-915308-85-1 

My first published collection of short stories. Living alone in a little cabin with my two babies, a sailboat, and no electricity, heat nor car, I spent time as a caretaker of a wild life reserve on the Cape Cod Canal. I was both so  overworked and so lonely that I thought I would die– but I didn’t of course. Instead, when the babies slept, I wrote short stories to keep myself company, and to hear other voices, even if I had to make them up!  I set myself the task of writing one story a week– and to my surprise, many were published. When I finished, I had enough stories for several books; sorted through, and sent the best of the collection off to Graywolf.


bedswelieinweb-2-667x1024The Beds We Lie In, 1986 (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize)
The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
ISBN:  0-8108-1840-X-9 

Robert Peters, poet and critic, edited this series.  He selected the poems he wanted, and wrote an astonishing — and kind and very long–introduction. He and I chose the poems, and he included some from a still- unpublished collection dear to my heart, The Breakup Variations, (here again, the structure is musical),  which had already been accepted by a good publisher who then went bankrupt.  My friend Elizabeth Resnik Cockburn designed the cover.


swimmers2-209x300Swimmer in the Spreading Dawn, 1981
Applewood Books
ISBN:  0-918222-24 

My personal life was starting, just starting, to unravel. Yet I experienced incredible beauty- in nature, children, love and friendship.  





jp1The Jane Poems, 1974
Doubleday and Company, Inc.
ISBN:  0-385-01

The Vietnam War was in full swing, and women, including myself, were being physically assaulted on the street. I wanted to combine the personal and political and struggled during the entire first year of a precious Radcliffe Institute Fellowship to find a way in. One day, walking, I heard the voice of the first poem singing to me. It was a persona voice, a third person voice, and the poems organized themselves against the jazzy rhythms of American music history. Subsequently, composers worked with me, and also well known jazz artists. I toured, performed,  (….”Jane is not ‘I,” but “Eye….”) and still occasionally perform from this piece. It deals with the effect of war on an innocent civilian population.


flyinginlandFlying Inland, 1973
Doubleday and Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-385-05128-X

Books available at your local bookstores, the Grolier Poetry BookshopAmazon,  Barnes and Noble, and other online services. This book was at first two books.The book I wanted to write, had written, was called Women and Children, and was based on the loss of a child, and was organized like the structure of Mahler’s song cycle, the  Kindertotenlieder. This book never got published; my editor thought it was too sad. I folded it into Flying Inland. I respected my wonderful editor, Ken McCormack, who “groomed” one for years, reading, rejecting, but sending me beautiful Doubleday books by other poets (male) to point the way. He was in fact a wonderful reader and critic, despite often being the bearer of bad news. He was one of the Great Editors, someone who loved literature and poetry especially.

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