Maxine Kumin has been laboring diligently in the fields for half a century—thoseof poetry and those in which her horses, dogs, and family dwell. Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, her sixteenth volume of poems, gathers the bestof five most recent books.
Kumin won the PulitzerPrize (for her 1972 collection Up Country) yet remains a “poet’s poet” with themakings of a wildly popular writer. Her work is beautiful, brave,down-to-earth, accessible, moving, and formally rigorous.
Where I Live flaunts an uneven magnificence. Animals take center stage. (“Perhapsin the last great turn of the wheel/ I was some sort of grazing animal./”)There’s the burial of a loved horse: “…his yellow teeth as he lay/ deep onone side and my hand shook—I could hardly see–/ rocking my grief back andforth over this kind death/ the taste of apple wasting in his mouth.”Kumin honors old age and departures, but this is a book of shimmering life. “Sunriseis a peach curtain,/ the river a woman/ in a lame dress.”
Kumin celebrates her longmarriage; (“I hope, he says, on the other side there’s a lot/ less work,but just in case I’m bringing tools.”); she pays homage to poets andwriters, relatives and heroines. More, she pays attention to everything.A newborn foal “sticks a foreleg out/ frail as a dowel quivering/ in theunfamiliar air.” Magic is rooted in the real. As this poet reminds us, “Allegianceto the land is tenderness.”