cover image Maxine Kumin Selected Poems, 1960-1990

Maxine Kumin Selected Poems, 1960-1990

Maxine Kumin. W. W. Norton & Company, $27.5 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04073-9

Testifying to the generous contribution that Kumin's perceptive, distinctive voice has made to contemporary American poetry, this balanced volume traces 30 years of the 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner's work. Drawn from 10 collections (the dates of which are regrettably omitted), the works map Kumin's terrain, which is the shared spheres of human and animal life. Kumin'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: ""Bombs and grenades, the newly disappeared,/ a kidnapped ear, go unrecorded/ but the foals flutter inside/ warm wet bags that carry them/ eleven months in the dark."" Considering moral questions of privilege and suffering (""Pulling the garden I always think/ of starving to death""), she dismisses ecological politics and lets go organized religion, acknowledging with dry humor that: ""Having never acceded to an initial coming/ I hold out no hope for a second/ let alone this bland vision of mail-order angels...."" Her hope, like her poetry, takes nature as its source of grace, strength and renewal. Solid craft supports Kumin's plain style: surprising imagery, such as ""chromosomes tight as a chain gang,"" and recurring reflections about suicide mark her close personal and working relationship with Anne Sexton. The evolution and inherent integrity of Kumin's poetry, wise, generous and passionate, is deftly captured in this forceful selection. (May)