The Collected Poems

The Collected Poems

4.5 2
by Stanley Kunitz

View All Available Formats & Editions

September 2000

In the year of his 95th birthday, this volume celebrates the distinguished career of one of our most esteemed poets. In 1995, Stanley Kunitz received the National Book Award in Poetry for Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected. The citation for the award read in part: "In his genius, great clarity is joined to greatSee more details below


September 2000

In the year of his 95th birthday, this volume celebrates the distinguished career of one of our most esteemed poets. In 1995, Stanley Kunitz received the National Book Award in Poetry for Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected. The citation for the award read in part: "In his genius, great clarity is joined to great generosity. His work shines with humanity, humor, precision, and passion."

Now, combining both early and later poems, including Selected Poems (which won the Pulitzer Prize), Kunitz presents us with the gift of his life's work in poetry. The early poems, long unavailable in any edition, sound themes that have always engaged Kunitz: life's meaning, the relation of time to eternity, kinship with nature, and loss, most poignantly that of his father. Despite the power of his poems about loss, Kunitz ardently celebrates life. Perpetually curious, eager for fresh revelations, he fully lives up to his own advice to younger poets "to persevere, then explore. Be explorers all your life."

Read More

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
“[P]erhaps the most distinguished living American poet.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
[T]he best that America has to offer today. Buy this book, read it, treasure it.
New York Times Book Review
[A]ffirms his stature as perhaps the most distinguished living American poet.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Widely, deeply and deservedly admired, Kunitz celebrates his 95th birthday with his first comprehensive collection in decades. Kunitz's oeuvre divides neatly in half. The first half, written before the 1960s, consists of elaborately stylized, neo-Metaphysical odes and lyrics, variously evocative of Blake, Yeats, Hart Crane and Allen Tate: "Engaged in exquisite analysis/ Of passionate destruction, lovers kiss;// In furious involvement they would make/ A double meaning single." Long out of print, these earlier poems won Kunitz a Pulitzer for his 1958 Selected. His current reputation rests justly on his very different, clearer, more obviously personal late poems--contemporary monuments of visionary clarity and understated wisdom, cast in long sentences and in short free-verse lines. These entirely convincing works--many of which are found in 1995's National Book Award-winning, Passing Through, a new-and-selected--reflect on justice, politics and the Vietnam War; on parenthood, divorce and happy remarriage; and (as one might expect) on advancing age. They also bring Kunitz face to face with a cast of remarkable ghosts--among them Dante; Roman gladiators; prehistoric Americans' "earth-faced chorus of the lost"; Abe Lincoln; Jewish mystics; "the larva of the tortoise beetle"; a bevy of outsider artists; and the poet's father, who died when Kunitz was young. One lyric revisits the poet's childhood dream: "Bolt upright in my bed that night/ I saw my father flying;/ the wind was walking on my neck/ the windowpanes were crying." Other poems examine inland Massachusetts (where Kunitz grew up) and Cape Cod (where he lives); several translate the Russian modernists Mandelstam and Akhmatova. Concise and deeply affecting, the later Kunitz is easy to love, but hard to describe, since his craft consists so much in hard thought and hard-won simplicity. His works of the last few decades are permanent things; readers without Passing Through should pick up this more permanent collection. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
It's hard to quarrel with this volume, which collects seven decades' worth of stellar work from one of America's foremost poets. Direct and down-to-earth, Kunitz addresses love, loss, and the gritty everyday in poems that are remarkably consistent in style and texture from the early 1930s to the late 1990s. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Robert Campbell
What makes this collection of a lifetime's work so valuable is the way it allows us to perceive the interconnectedness of all Kunitz has written. Each poem stands alone, but each also enriches the others . . . The pursuit of such interweavings makes of this book one long poem, in which symbols and themes recur in different contexts.
New York Times Book Review

Read More

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

    An Old Cracked Tune

My name is Solomon Levi,
the desert is my home,
my mother's breast was thorny,
and father I had none.

The sands whispered, Be separate,
the stones taught me, Be hard.
I dance, for the joy of surviving,
on the edge of the road.

    The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my bookof transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

    The Long Boat

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

    Halley's Comet

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.
Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street—
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.

    Hornworm: Summer Reverie

Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon.
See me put on that look
of slow and fierce surprise
when I lift my bulbous head
and glare at an intruder.
Nobody seems to guess
how gentle I really am,
content most of the time
simply to disappear
by melting into the scenery.
Smooth and fatty and long,
with seven white stripes
painted on either side
and a sharp little horn for a tail,
I lie stretched out on a leaf,
pale green on my bed of green,
munching, munching.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >