Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB: www.storypreservation.org

Posts from the ‘Poets’ category

Ashley Bryan ⎥ Opening Paths to Exploration

A story of courage, ethnicity, generosity, and inspiration.

 

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CLICK ON LINKS BELOW TO LISTEN TO ASHLEY’S RECORDING. 

Renowned for the extraordinary range and depth of his talent, Ashley Bryan is an artist, a writer, a poet, an anthologist, a storyteller, and a noted scholar of African and African American folklore.

His children’s books are full of love – all embracing, inspiring, warm, colorful, joyous, and bursting with song. He works largely with Black African-American poetry and spirituals.

Ashley hopes that his work with African tales will be like “a tender bridge” connecting past to present, reaching across distances of time and space. Ashley’s numerous awards and honors include the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration; six Coretta Scott King Honors; the Arbuthnot Prize, one of the highest honors in children’s literature; and a Fulbright Scholarship.

His poetry and paintings have and continue to influence a whole generation of children.

Born in 1923 in Harlem to West Indies immigrants, Bryan’s childhood was filled with books, music, and art, even though resources tended to be scarce during the Great Depression. Second of six children, Bryan cannot remember a time when he was not drawing or painting.

One of Ashley Bryan's Sea Glass stained glass windows.

One of Ashley Bryan’s Sea Glass windows.

His first memories were of his parents sending him to Government run WPA classes which were free, and where he learned to draw, paint and play musical instruments. Ashley’s mother sang and his father played the piano.

After graduating from high school, he applied for a scholarship at a prominent art institution, but was essentially told that a scholarship would not be wasted on a colored person. Under the guidance of his high school teachers, Bryan then applied and was accepted into New York’s prestigious Cooper Union Art School. Two years at Cooper Union and Ashley was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. At the age of nineteen, as a part of the fleet that sailed to Normandy for the surprise invasion, Bryan drew whenever he could, keeping a sketch pad and art supplies in his gas mask.

From there, Bryan went on to study philosophy at Columbia University to, as he says, “understand war.”  He received a Fulbright scholarship to study art in Europe, and became the head of the art department at Dartmouth College.

Ashley's home, where the door is always open.

Ashley’s home, where the door is always open.

 

 

Ashley Bryan lives on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine.

The above copy is taken from numerous sources, including Wikipedia, Reading Rockets, and Simon and Schuster author profiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRACK ONE:  INTRO TO RECORDING – 

TRACK TWO: EARLY YEARS IN THE BRONX – 

TRACK THREE: THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY – 

TRACK FOUR: WORLD WAR II – 

TRACK FIVE:  THE ALL-WHITE WORLD OF CHILDREN’S BOOKS – 

TRACK SIX: AFRICAN FOLK TALES – 

TRACK SEVEN: AFRICAN SPIRITUALS – 

 

 

The transcription from the first section of our interview follows: 

 

Growing Up in the Bronx / Discovering the Importance of Community

I was born in New York City on July 13, 1923 of immigrant parents who had come from Antigua in the West Indies. They had six children; I was the second. I was raised in the Bronx during the Depression years. My parents provided food, clothes, and shelter but they couldn’t afford other things.

At that time there was the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They offered free art and free music classes for communities throughout the country. My parents sent the six of us to all the things that were free that would help us to develop ourselves creatively. We worked with whatever materials we could find to recreate them, to make something of them — things that we would find on the streets – including fabrics and things from upholstery stores. My sister and I would bring them home and rework them into quilts, into skirts and jackets. We were always working with castoff materials, recreating them, bringing them into another form of life, which is a pattern that has stayed with me through life.

The good thing about growing up in tenement apartments was that we knew everyone in the house. Everyone looked after the other. My parents took care of the elders in the house. In good weather people sat out on the streets. They would bring their instruments, their music, what they would drink in the warm weather. They always had an eye out for the children. It was a different world in the 1930’s growing up in the city, which was broken down into small communities. It was that sense of community, which I’ve carried through life, which followed me to these islands off the coast of Maine. That’s what helped me decide that this would become my year-round home, because the community that I found here reminded of my New York City tenement apartment.

 

Cooper Union and Columbia University

My father was a printer but when he came to the United States, being a black man, all he was offered was a mop and broom. My dad never talked about racism. He simply said, “I knew I wasn’t going to last long in a job like that.” So, he went to the British Consulate and got a certificate from them stating that I had served in His Majesty’s Army and that he had worked as an apprentice printer as a child. That gave him an entrance into a downtown printing plant and that’s where he worked. He said it gave him a chance to be expressive in his work. And he was always bringing home extra papers from work. So I had these beautiful papers to work with.

I also had the good fortune of having wonderful teachers in elementary school. I had all white teachers throughout elementary, junior high, and high school. They all encouraged me. They always recognized my talent and gave me the materials that I needed to keep growing in my love of art.

In high school I joined the Art Club and, on graduation, I had the help of my teachers to prepare a very strong portfolio. Before graduating, they gave me the list of art schools in New York City to go to. So I went from art school to art school and was told – and this is New York City – “this is the best portfolio we have seen, but it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person.” When I came back to the high school and told that to my teachers, they said, “Ashley, come back and take a post-graduate course.” They knew I was black, I knew I was black, and there was no problem. It didn’t occur to them that I would need anything beyond my talents. So they said, come back, take a post-graduate course, work on your portfolio, and in the summer take the exam for the Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering. They do not see you there. So, that summer I took the exam. At that time, in 1940, there were three exercises: one in drawing, one in sculpture, and one in architecture.

When you finished those exercises, you put your work on a tray with all the information of who you are on the platform of the Great Hall. It’s a very famous hall, where all of our presidents have lectured, from the earliest time. It was founded in1850 for the working young men and women of the country, primarily for young women working in all aspects of the garment trade and for young men in engineering, as Peter Cooper was an outstanding engineer. So, I took the exams, I put it on my tray and left. Then professors looked over all of the work, and they selected those they wanted for admission to the Cooper Union. I was fortunate in being one of them. I was the only black in my class, but I had grown up in a mixed community of French, German, Italian, and Irish.   I became close friends with the students there. We have followed each other through life. The very few, who at ninety, are still alive, I’m still very close to.

 

Interrelationships

I was never a loner. I was always with others. I was alone in my art, creating my art. All artists and composers, in whatever form, they have to be alone in developing in what they do. But I always loved being with others and sharing my work. And I always had the respect of others, because of my real love of doing my work – and my respect for what they did. I was lousy in sports. I’d be the last one chosen on any team. But they understood that and they spoke of me as the artist of the community. I was never picked on. I don’t know why that is, other than I always had such a deep respect for what other people do that it never occurred to me that there was any kind of a hierarchy. You could be sweeping a street and I would respect what you were doing and your work in that community.

My work in the community was always open to people dropping in. I drew so much from just the informal visits and what they would have to say. You know, I think that’s why I say I don’t believe in interruptions in my life. Right now, talking with you, I am creating. I am drawing, I’m painting, I’m doing my bookwork, I’m doing my puppet work, my sea glass work. There is no interruption. Everything that is happening to me I feel is significant. There is no way you can take my time. It’s the one thing that I possess. I can only offer it to you in exchange for your precious gift of your time, so remain on a level of back and forth, you see. And that is why my door is always open and people will come and go. But they come and they say, “Oh, we’re interrupting you.” No! Look! Do you want to see my paintings, do you want to see my drawings, do you want to see my sea-glass work, do you want to see my bookwork? I am always producing.

 

WWII / Looking for answers

When I came back from the Second World War I was so spun around, as veterans are, it was difficult to go on. Well, I knew when I came back (I was inducted at nineteen) that I wanted to complete my studies at Cooper Union. So, I knew my direction. I was not like veterans who don’t have a direction. After the experiences of a war, they find it difficult to adjust and go one. Very often then, because they don’t have enough services to keep following them up, they fall through. And that’s why, when they say a third of the homeless are veterans, it’s very understandable, because without help of family, friends, or a direction in life, or a medical support system that will follow them closely, it’s very hard after those experiences, to say you’re normal and go on. That’s what I experienced when I came home. I knew I wanted to complete my course study, but I also knew I wanted to understand why man chooses war. So when I graduated from Cooper Union, I did undergraduate work as a philosophy major at Columbia, to see if I could find answers. And I only found more questions. But I was so intrigued by the way man thinks, in aesthetics and ethics, in logic, and these areas, which I studied, that I stayed with it. Summers I’d come up to Maine and I’d be outdoors painting the whole time. That’s what really gave me a focus and direction. When I graduated from Columbia University, I knew I would not go any further in studies.

Please check back regularly.  More of the transcription to follow. 

Made possible with funds provided by the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation.              

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April is National Poetry Month – Get Inspired

 

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ANNOUNCING SPI’S FIRST ANNUAL STUDENT POETRY CONTEST!

The SPI Learning Lab contains the voices and stories of nationally and internationally renowned poets. We combine their stories with suggestions for projects that engage students in the art and craft of poetry writing.  OUR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTEST is open to K-12 students from schools subscribing to the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab.  To subscribe to the Learning Lab or to register for a 10-day free trial, click Login / Register here. 

Prizes will be awarded in each of the following four grade categories:  Grades 1 – 3  /  4 – 6  / 7 – 9 / and 10 – 12.

Students can write on any subject and in any form they choose.  Looking for ideas? Here are some PROMPTS.

 

Middle / High:
  • Referencing Stephen Kuusisto’s narrative found in the Learning Lab – ARTS/ POETS with focus on Track 06 “Creating Images that Can’t be Seen,” write a poem that depicts the invisible.
  • Referencing Chard deNiord’s narrative with focus on Track 05 “The Cold Eye,” write a poem with adjectives and then a second poem with the adjectives removed.
  • Referencing Wesley McNair’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “First Poem” and Track 05 “Young Adulthood,” write a poem about a personal life experience as viewed from a distance.

 

Elementary:
  • Referencing Bruce McEver’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “Poet in a Business Suit,” write a poem that is inspired by a work of art.
  • Write a brief letter or email to a special relative or beloved pet and turn that letter into a poem with the help of
    READWRITETHINK Line Break Explorer.

 

Prizes:

Grand Prize Winner’s poems will be published on the Learning Lab site. Grand prize winners will also receive a custom designed framed print of a line from their winning poem. Grand Prize, as well as second and third place winners from each age group will receive a personal note of congratulations from Story Preservation Initiative National Poetry Month Contest judge, Wesley McNair.  (Maximum of four Grand Prize Winners, four Second Prize and four Third Prize Winners, representing one from each grade group).

 

JUDGED BY MAINE POET LAUREATE AND 2015 PEN NEW ENGLAND AWARD WINNER, WESLEY MCNAIR

 

Poet Philip Levine has called Wesley McNair “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He has won grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller Fellowships, two NEA grants in creative writing, and an Emmy Award.  He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress.  He was recently selected for a United States Artists Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists,” and in April of 2015, he was named as the recipient of the PEN New England Award for Poetry for his latest collection, The Lost Child: Ozark Poems.

 

CLICK HERE FOR STORY PRESERVATION INITIATIVE
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTEST OFFICIAL RULES

 

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Vermont Poet Laureate ⎥Chard deNiord

photoWe couldn’t be happier!  On November 2, 2015 Chard was named Poet Laureate of Vermont.

This is the fourth post in our series: Meet the Folks! A look at the people behind the scenes at Story.

Chard is a member of Story Preservation’s Board of Directors and a professor of creative writing at Providence College.  We had the good fortune to record Chard in 2013.  Audio from the session is embedded, below.

His books: Interstate (University of Pittsburg Press, 2015); The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), selected as one of the top ten books of poetry by the Boston Globe in 2011; Night Mowing (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Sharp Golden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003); and Asleep in the Fire (University of Alabama Press,1990). His book of essays and interviews with seven senior American poets (Galway Kinnell, Ruth Stone, Lucille Clifton, Donald Hall, Robert Bly, Jack Gilbert, and Maxine Kumin) titled Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Conversations and Reflections on Twentieth Century American Poets was published in December of 2011 by Marick Press. He is also the co-founder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry.

cftgntmuuaatxbnAbout Interstate, former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey writes: “Interstate seamlessly connects the state of knowing, in a worldly sense, to that knowing that is deeply felt yet unbodied. The precise attention to the ordinary things of the world, and in particular to the natural world, gives way to the wisdom of the spirit undergirding these searching poems. Reading them, I felt the delights of language in each new revelation: ‘Words were all; / they came to me like birds to a tree.’”

DeNiord earned a BA in religious studies from Lynchburg College, a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  He lives in Putney, Vermont with his wife Liz.

Audio is a production of Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  

Stories Matter

The Writing Life

13189_1551905251689292_4459921968315249742_nFormer US Poet Laureate Donald Hall is a friend and neighbor to many of us in New Hampshire. His latest book, ESSAYS AFTER EIGHTY was released in late 2014 to critical acclaim.

In this collection of 14 autobiographical essays he reflects on aging, death, the craft of writing and his beloved landscape of New Hampshire.

Don’s recording was the first in the Story Preservation collection and he opened the door to us to many other poets including Maxine Kumin, Wes McNair and others.
Interested in listening? Here’s the link:
https://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/the-mouth-joy-of-vowels-and-consonants-a-conversation-with-donald-hall/

 

Poet Wesley McNair

Wesley_McNair_1-1024x704Wesley McNair served as Poet Laureate of Maine 2011 – 2016. Poet Philip Levine has called him “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He is the author of ten volumes of poems and twenty books, including poetry, nonfiction, and edited anthologies. McNair has held grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller grants for study at the Bellagio Center in Italy, two NEA fellowships, and a United States Artist Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists.” He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress, and has served four times on the Pulitzer jury for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Other honors include the Robert Frost Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize, an Emmy Award, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, for his “distinguished contribution to the world of letters.” His poetry has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and twenty-two times on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in the Best American Poetry and over sixty anthologies and textbooks. His most recent books are The Lost Child: Ozark Poems, for which he received the 2015 PEN New England Award for Poetry; Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems; and The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry.

To listen to Wesley’s talk about his life and poetry, click on links below.

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative, 2012.  All rights reserved.

Bringing Poets into Classrooms

wesley-mcnairStory Preservation’s recording of Maine Poet Laureate WESLEY MCNAIR – along and his memoir THE WORDS I CHOSE will serve as the jumping off point for a Learning Lab project at Franklin High School in Franklin, NH. The students will listen to Wes’ oral history, read his poetry and memoir – and will then write both prose and poetry informed by their own life experience.

The Colby College (Waterville, Maine) Special Collections Library, which houses Wes’ extensive collection of papers, has generously allowed Story Preservation to use material archived there for our Learning Lab project.

To listen to Wes’ recording, jump to:

https://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/maine-poet-laureate-%E2%8E%A5wesley-mcnair/

Poet  Author  Advocate for the Disabled  Stephen Kuusisto

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Poet, author, and advocate for those with disabilities, Professor Stephen Kuusisto, who has been blind since birth, is the author of“Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir “Planet of the Blind”, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published “Only Bread, Only Light“, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press.

Steve is recognized by the New York Times as “a powerful writer with a musical ear for language and a gift for emotional candor.”

A BRIEF EXCERPT from SPI’s recording of Stephen:

When I was a child it was very clear, growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, that being a person with a disability made me an outlier. Teachers didn’t want me in public school. My mother did want me in public school because she thought that I really would have a limited experience of life if I went to The Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. She felt strongly that I should live in the world. But the world was very conditional. It was long before the Americans with Disabilities Act. And so early in my life I felt a sense of ostracism and loneliness. Able-bodied kids didn’t want me to play with them. There were no sporting programs for kids with disabilities. And so my world became the world familiar I think to all artists who discover the arts early in life. It became an isolated and rather beautiful – but very private – kind of experience. Even by the age of seven or eight I had a very, very intense kind of inner life. And that inner life a lot of artists will tell you – whether they’re dancers or painters or poets – that they early on had that sense of the wonder and strangeness of being alive.

A graduate of the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, and a Fulbright Scholar, Steve holds the position of director of the Renée Crown University Honors Program at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in the Center on Human Policy. He speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. His essays and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including Harper’s’ The New York Times Magazine; Poetry; andPartisan Review.

About his memoir PLANET OF THE BLIND

As a boy he careened down the street on the bicycle his mother bought him. As a teenager he traveled to Europe and played basketball. As a young man he won scholarships, taught classes, went bird watching. And all the while, Stephen Kuusisto would not utter, even to himself, the one central truth of his life: he could not see. With 20/200 vision in his better eye, he was legally blind. Writes Kuusisto: “I see like a person who looks through a kaleidoscope; my impressions of the world at once beautiful and largely useless.”

In this breathtaking memoir, Stephen Kuusisto leads us on a vividly painted odyssey into a landscape that is both beautiful, terrifying, and magical. A work of exquisite intelligence and passionate heart, Planet of the Blind is for anyone who has viewed the world through a unique lens – and ultimately seen the truth.

“The world is a surreal pageant,” writes Stephen Kuusisto. “Ahead of me the shapes and colors suggest the sails of Tristan’s ship or an elephant’s ear floating in air, though in reality it is a middle-aged man in a London Fog rain coat which billows behind him in the April wind.”

So begins Kuusisto’s memoir, Planet of the Blind, a journey through the kaleidoscope geography of the partially-sighted, where everyday encounters become revelations, struggles, or simple triumphs. Not fully blind, not fully sighted, the author lives in what he describes as “the customs-house of the blind”, a midway point between vision and blindness that makes possible his unique perception of the world. In this singular memoir, Kuusisto charts the years of a childhood spent behind bottle-lens glasses trying to pass as a normal boy, the depression that brought him from obesity to anorexia, the struggle through high school, college, first love, and sex. Ridiculed by his classmates, his parents in denial, here is the story of a man caught in a perilous world with no one to trust–until a devastating accident forces him to accept his own disability and place his confidence in the one relationship that can reconnect him to the world–the relationship with his guide dog, a golden Labrador retriever named Corky. With Corky at his side, Kuusisto is again awakened to his abilities, his voice as a writer and his own particular place in the world around him.

Written with all the emotional precision of poetry, Kuusisto’s evocative memoir explores the painful irony of a visually sensitive individual–in love with reading, painting, and the everyday images of the natural world–faced with his gradual descent into blindness. Folded into his own experience is the rich folklore the phenomenon of blindness has inspired throughout history and legend.

LETTERS TO BORGES / Copper Canyon Press:

From their website:

1492_md“Poetry carves a topiary garden out of dust,” writes Stephen Kuusisto in his second collection of poetry, Letters to Borges. Despite blindness, Kuusisto “carves out his own garden” writing to Jorge Luis Borges, a blind writer as well, with synesthetic visuals and imaginative description. Kuusisto writes from different cities, altering and shifting them, unrestrained by time or concreteness. Each one in turn becomes his own city depicted for Borges as a traveler journaling to a distant friend. Laced amongst these artful letters Kuusisto includes fragments of his past, earnest and humorous divagations, elegies for poets, musicians, and friends while always retaining a sense of place. Kuusisto is a guide delving us into his unique and dynamic sensory world. For Kuusisto, blindness is no debilitation, but instead an opening through the unperceived.

To hear Stephen’s oral history, click on links below.  Audio is a production of Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  

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Stories Matter

In Honor and Memory of Maxine Kumin 1925 – 2014

Maxine’s oral history, recorded in 2012 at her home in Warner, NH, can be heard in its entirety by clicking on the links below.


It was a pleasure meeting and recording Maxine at her farm in Warner, New Hampshire.

Excerpted from The Poetry Foundation:

An enduring presence in American poetry, Maxine Kumin’s career has spanned over half a century. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. She was the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1981-1982, and has taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities, including MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Despite traveling away from home to lecture at schools and universities around the United States, Kumin has retained close ties with her farmhouse in rural New Hampshire; in an interview with Joan Norris published in Crazy Horse, the poet disclosed, “Practically all of [my poems] have come out of this geography and this state of mind.”

Her “well-made poems and stories are two ways of coming at the same immemorial preoccupations: aging and mortality,” wrote Clara Claiborne Park in the Nation, and deemed Kumin’s work “the fiction and poetry of maturity.” Her poems are also mature for another reason: Kumin did not begin to write and publish until mid-life, when she found encouragement in workshops at the Boston Center for Adult Education. Her early poems display her mastery of technique and deal with themes that she has continued to explore throughout her career: identity, the ephemeral nature of life, loss, and man’s relationship to nature. Many of these early works were collected in Kumin’s first book of poems, Halfway (1961), published when she was thirty-six. While attending the Boston workshops, Kumin met and befriended the poet Anne Sexton. Both homemakers with children when they began their literary careers, they wrote four children’s books together and in general contributed to each other’s development. The two poets communicated on a nearly daily basis, conducting private workshops by letter and phone. Consequently, critics tried to trace a strong mutual influence, but both poets denied one. Nonetheless, there were some significant exchanges, and the two poets suggested titles for each other’s work on at least two occasions.

Kumin is most often compared to Robert Frost.  The work of both poets shows a close attention to the details of New England rural life. Booth commented: “The distinctive nature of Maxine Kumin’s present poems derives from the primary fact that she lives in, and writes from, a world where constant (if partial) recovery of what’s ‘lost’ is as sure as the procession of the equinoxes, or as familiar as mucking-out the horses’ daily dung.” Kumin’s preference for traditional verse forms has also caused critics to liken her to Frost. Not only is there an order “to be discovered…in the natural world,” she told Martha George Meek in a Massachusetts Review interview, “there is also an order that a human can impose on the chaos of his emotions and the chaos of events.” Kumin achieves this order by structuring and controlling her most emotional subjects, fitting them to exacting patterns of syllable count and rhyme. As she told Hammond, “The harder—that is, the more psychically difficult—the poem is to write, the more likely I am to choose a difficult pattern to pound it into. This is true because, paradoxically, the difficulty frees me to be more honest and more direct.”

Kumin is also a noted writer of fiction, and has admitted to a certain overlap between the two genres. “I tend to steal from myself,” she said in an interview published in To Make a Prairie. “The compass of the poem is so small and so demanding, you have to be so selective, and there are so many things that get left out that you feel cheated. So you take all those things…and they get into fiction.”

Kumin’s later work has received praise for its emotional attentiveness and elegiac nature. Reviewing Nurture (1989), in the New York Times Book Review, Carol Muske remarked, “These poems are exhaustive in their sorrow: they are predominantly short, brutal elegies for the natural world.” In later books, such as The Long Approach (1986), Nurture, Looking for Luck (1992), and Connecting the Dots: Poems(1996), Kumin continues to focus on the daily rituals of farm-life, as well as turning her attention to social and environmental problems such as pollution, religious persecution, nuclear holocaust, and famine.

In 1997, Kumin published Selected Poems, 1960-1990. Covering the first nine books of Kumin’s career, the volume was praised by Judy Clarence in Library Journal for allowing the reader the opportunity to “move slowly, meanderingly, deliciously through the stages of Kumin’s poetic life.” Noting that the poet’s “unsentimental affinity for animals has been her divining rod for locating and observing the natural world’s seemingly inexhaustible beauty and mankind’s terrifying willingness to destroy it,” a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the collection for illustrating this through Kumin’s “plain style,” “surprising imagery…and recurring reflections.” Kumin followed Selected Poems with The Long Marriage (2002), which celebrates her five-decade marriage to her husband, their life together in New Hampshire, and nature. The book was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. The New York Times Book Review contributor Megan Harland called Kumin’s observations “earthy” and “practical,” and she declared that “Kumin’s tonal clarity is transformative.”

When Kumin was seventy-three she suffered an accident while preparing a horse for competition and broke her neck, receiving serious internal injuries. She was able to make a successful recovery, however, and her book Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery (1999) describes her convalescence. Anne Roiphe, writing for the New York Times Book Review, described Kumin’s language as “precise and spare.” Roiphe noted that although Kumin is a poet, this book “is rarely poetic in the usual sense of heightened metaphor or compacted image.” Roiphe likened the work “to a dignified prayer of thanks” that resonates with “wisdom while announcing a triumph of body and soul.” The same year that Inside the Halo and Beyond was released, Kumin also published Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry, a collection of essays and poems describing Kumin’s daily life as a poet. She includes interviews, diary entries, and keynote addresses, as well as poetry.

Kumin’s latest poetry collections are Jack and Other New Poems (2005and Still to Mow (2007).  She recently won the  L.A. Times Book Award for her latest collection of poems, Where I Live.

Maxine Kumin on Story Preservation’s New Hampshire Public Radio program “Inspired Lives:”

http://nhpr.org/post/inspired-lives-poet-maxine-kumin

Click on a link to listen: 

Maxine Kumin Intro to Recording Track 01

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Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

 

Victor Kumin’s oral history can be found at: https://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/one-of-oppies-boys/

 

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Stories Matter