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.
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.
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