cover image And Short the Season

And Short the Season

Maxine Kumin. Norton, $24.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-393-24100-6

There’s a brightness to Kumin’s posthumously released collection (after Where I Live) that makes it hard to believe the Pulitzer winner and former U.S. poet laureate passed away recently at age 88. Across her body of work, exquisite pastorals of her New Hampshire farm mix with politics and echoes of past poets, possessing a directness that makes each piece necessary and vital. Kumin does not delve into personal pain, though she skims the surface, giving cool-handed hints into what it means to be mortal. “The Revisionist Dream” explores her friend Anne Sexton’s suicide: “Well, she didn’t kill herself that afternoon./ It was a mild day in October, we sat outside/ over sandwiches.” Kumin’s poetic career, like Sexton’s, began at a time when women weren’t welcomed warmly into the literary fold. She observes, “modern/ women poets were dismissed as immature,/ their poems pink with the glisten of female organs.” Her mastery of form lays hidden in the ease and spontaneity of her language. The stunning “Seeing Things” transposes the lush language of her pastorals onto the landscape of “harmless visual hallucinations.” “When I go blind, I ask him, will I still see them?/ —They will always be with you, he said. Try to befriend them.” Kumin has left us a fittingly strong and subtle final work. (Apr.)