In the winter of ’49, Robert
Lowell and a young Flannery O’Connor
were both invited to stay at Yaddo,
the artist colony in upstate New
York. Lowell was on the verge of fame as a poet;
O’Connor was working on her novel Wise

Blood. O’Connor found the older writer wise
and attractive. Little did she know that Robert
Lowell was breaking down again. The poet
was in a manic phase; perhaps O’Connor
thought a lot of the old blue bloods in New
England were now rabid Catholics. At Yaddo,

the two hit it off. There were four guests at Yaddo
that winter, and Lowell became wise,
he thought, to a Red wind blowing in from New
York City: the place was accused, by Robert
Lowell, of harboring communists; O’Connor
strongly and publicly supported the poet’s

McCarthyism. Soon the papers heard the poet’s
charges, and it was a regular showdown at Yaddo,
with Lowell acting as sheriff and O’Connor
his deputy rounding up commies. Why?
Writers and artists were outraged by Robert
Lowell’s erratic behavior. No one knew

of his obsession with Hitler, or knew
he would later be arrested, the confused poet
shouting slurs at “homos” in the streets: Robert
Lowell would be famous for his episodes; the Yaddo
affair was just first in a series. Wise-
ly, he apologized for his behavior. But O’Connor:

what can we say about Flannery O’Connor,
who left Saratoga and stayed at a New
York Y after the incident? Biographywise,
Lowell’s failed witch-hunt helped the poet’s
rep for mad genius; O’Connor’s actions at Yaddo
are glossed over in history books. Robert

Lowell, Robert Lowell, did O’Connor
fall for you—unwisely, yes—in Yaddo?
Did she love even the hate of this new, mad poet?