ISBN is

978-0-393-05030-1 / 0393050300

The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz

by Kunitz, Stanley

Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Stanley Kunitz's collected poems are an unassailable argument for age, experience and impassioned observation. America's 10th poet laureate has many decades' worth of work under his belt, and his lyrics form a fine self-portrait even as they track his evolution toward the spare and simple. With considerable wit, he sees into the life of things: a brook or a bird, a squirrel or a salmon is very much a part of nature, but it is also infinitely more.

Kunitz's "Reflections", which preface his Collected Poems, offer several modest credos. In one, he writes, "I like to think that it is the poet's love of particulars, the things of this world, that leads him to universals". His work is ample proof that what Kunitz likes to think is right! In "Robin Redbreast", for instance, the poet--living in an empty house that will soon be his no longer and facing nothing but blank pages--rescues a bird from some belligerent jays:

It was the dingiest bird / you ever saw, all the colour / washed from him, as if / he had been standing in the rain, / friendless and stiff and cold, / since Eden went wrong.
Alas, a moment's complacency at his own good deed comes to a quick end. There is no need for the poet to drive home his point--he merely provides the tragic image of an old bullet hole in the robin's head, through which he catches a glimpse of "the cold flash of the blue / unappeasable sky". Yet Kunitz did not arrive at this level without effort, and much of the pleasure of this volume lies in witnessing the growth of the poet's mind.

Several of Kunitz's finest, and most desolate, poems explore his father's suicide, which took place before he was born. Others, on Mark Rothko and Alexander Calder, celebrate creation in the face of immense difficulty. And there are poems, too, of resistance: this generous collection includes translations of Mandelstam, Akhmatova and Blok, as well as his own "Around Pastor Bonhoeffer", which commemorates the pacifist cleric who was part of the plot to kill Hitler. In "The Layers", the poet asks point-blank: "How shall the heart be reconciled / to its feast of losses?" Reconciliation, Kunitz knows, isn't possible, but his work proves that the raptures of love and art are a strong consolation. --Kerry Fried

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