Maxine Kumin

 

 

Poems By Maxine Kumin

Where I Live

Waterboarding, Restored

Looking for Luck in Bangkok

 

 

 

Maxine Kumin—an avid horse-woman with “an unreasonable and passionate commitment to language”—has amassed, over the last half-century, an oeuvre ever more essential and unforgettable. One of the most celebrated and enduring figures in American literature, she is the author of thirteen books of poems, five novels, four essay collections, short stories, and more than twenty children's books. Kumin’s work is often noted for its carefully carved depictions of rustic New England landscapes and the creatures that inhabit them.

Born and raised in Philadephia, Kumin studied history and literature at Radcliffe College. It was not until later in life, while studying poetry at the Boston Center for Adult Education, that she discovered her passion for poetry, publishing her first book of poems at the age of thirty-six. It was also around this time that Kumin met Anne Sexton, with whom she wrote four children’s books. The two women maintained a close friendship until Sexton’s death in 1974.

Since 1976, Kumin and her husband of 64 years have lived on a farm in Warner, New Hampshire, where she finds much of her poetic inspiration. Booklist has praised her “vital rhythms that match a horse’s canter, a human’s stride.” Kumin is the author of a searingly honest and inspirational memoir about a nearly fatal riding accident, Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery. Her most recent books of poetry are Still to Mow (her 16th) and Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010.

Along with a Pulitzer Prize, Kumin’s long list of honors includes the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, the Robert Frost Medal, the Poet’s Prize, and the Paterson Prize for Distinguished Literary Achievement. She has held teaching positions at some of the most prestigious schools in the country, and in 1981 was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now known as the United States Poet Laureate. She also served as Poet Laureate of New Hampshire from 1989 to 1994.

Kumin is variously described as a transcendentalist, a confessional poet, and a master of the regional pastoral, but such labels leave out her engagement with the larger world. Philip Booth lauds her for her “resonant language, autobiographical immediacy, unsystematized intelligence, and radical compassion.” In 1995, three years after her election as a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets, Kumin resigned the post in protest of the racial and gender inequality of the institution. Many of her recent poems address issues such as torture, rendition, and the despoiling of the national world. While she does, as The New York Times claims, find “a way to talk to wildness”—this fearless chronicler of the cycles of life and death on her farm is just as brave and clear-eyed when focusing her gaze on the political horizon.

 

 

 

 

         
    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2011