cover image Still to Mow

Still to Mow

Maxine Kumin, . . Norton, $23.95 (95pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06549-7

New England rural life, the daily headlines, old age and a Jewish-American childhood are the four topics around which the latest poems from Kumin (Jack and other New Poems ) weave their likable, confident way. The much-revered, prolific New Hampshire writer presents herself as “a helpless citizen of a country/ I used to love,” tying objections to the war in Iraq to her past as “Sixties soccer mom” who marched in demonstrations; to her friendship with activists in the 1940s; and to her affection for horses and dogs, whose truth to their own natures make human violence look unnatural indeed. “Xochi's Tale” speaks truth in the voice of a dog explaining his mixed feelings about the USA. Several villanelles, the highlights of the collection, set their own obedience to the laws of poetic form against some frightening forms of lawlessness: a friend's uncontrollable clinical depression, for example, or the terror inflicted by U.S. troops in Iraq, who invade the houses of civilians, “punching kicking yelling... breaking down doors.” These poems are formally assured, never obscure and committed at once to social protest and to the facts of a memorable life. (Sept.)