cover image Bringing Together: Uncollected Early Poems, 1958-1988

Bringing Together: Uncollected Early Poems, 1958-1988

Maxine Kumin. W. W. Norton & Company, $21.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-393-05766-9

New England farm life, modern American history, Jewish identity and a quietly vibrant feminist consciousness provide themes and structure for this gathering of poems from a long and distinguished career. Kumin's previous publications include memoirs, novels, essays and 13 previous books of poetry, most recently The Long Marriage (2001); the strongest of these poems might well have fit in her Selected Poems 1960-1990. Many chronicle the travails and delights of Kumin's New Hampshire horse farm, where""Snow makes Monday as white/ at supper as breakfast was,"" and, as one disarming title would have it,""A New England Gardener Gets Personal."" The poems are undated, but Kumin astutely places most of the short-lined, quiet poems near the front of the volume; succeeding them comes work reacting to cities (Paris, New York) and public events (like the war in Vietnam). Kumin veers from her usual understatement in""Lately, at Night"" (an elegy for her father) and in""The Archaeology of a Marriage,"" whose technique recalls Kumin's close friend Anne Sexton. The collection closes with longer poems, some in irregular rhyming stanzas, devoted to Jewish and Jewish-American topics (Purim, Passover, a visit to Egypt and Israel). While admirers should not expect, from a volume of verse Kumin left out of older collections, poems at the level of Kumin's best, they will nonetheless find a likable, careful poet recording the events and impressions that have shaped a life.