Three Books: Body Rags; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words; The Past


This volume brings together BODY RAGS and MORTAL ACTS, MORTAL WORDS and THE PAST, three books that are central to the life?s work of one of the masters of contemporary poetry. Included here are many of Galway Kinnell?s best-loved and most anthologized poems. Kinnell has revised some of the poems for this new edition, and comments on his working method in a prefatory note.

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This volume brings together BODY RAGS and MORTAL ACTS, MORTAL WORDS and THE PAST, three books that are central to the life’s work of one of the masters of contemporary poetry. Included here are many of Galway Kinnell’s best-loved and most anthologized poems. Kinnell has revised some of the poems for this new edition, and comments on his working method in a prefatory note.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The reissue of three books from the wide-ranging Kinnell, published in 1968, 1989, and 1985, respectively. Add to his two classics: The Book of Nightmares 1973 and The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World 1974.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618219117
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 226
  • Sales rank: 676,538
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Galway Kinnell is a former MacArthur Fellow and has been state poet of Vermont. In 1982 his Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. For many years he was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. He is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. For thirty-five years—from WHAT A KINGDOM IT WAS to THE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES to THREEE BOOKS—Galway Kinnell has been enriching American poetry, not only by his poems but also by his teaching and his powerful public readings.

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Read an Excerpt

The Olive Wood Fire

When Fergus woke crying at night, I would carry him from his crib to the rocking chair and sit holding him before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears would keep on rolling down his big cheeks—the left cheek always more brilliant than the right—and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood, and hold each other against the darkness, his close behind and far away in the future, mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself, I thought I heard a scream—a flier crying out in horror as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom, or else a child thus set aflame—and sat up alert. The olive wood fire had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus, fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God.

Three Books: Copyright © 1993, 2002 by Galway Kinnell Mortal Acts, Mortal Words: Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Table of Contents


Author’s Note vii



Another Night in the Ruins 5 Lost Loves 8 Getting the Mail 9 Vapor Trail Reflected in the Frog Pond 10 The Fossils 12 The Burn 14 One Who Used to Beat His Way 16 The Fly 17 The Falls 18 Mango 19 In the Anse Galet Valley 20 La Bagarcde 21 Night in the Forest 22 Going Home by Last Light 23 How Many Nights 25 Last Songs 26 In the Farmhouse 27 The Correspondence School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students 28 The Poem 30


The Last River 35


Testament of the Thief 57 The Porcupine 62 The Bear 67



Fergus Falling 75 After Making Love We Hear Footsteps 77 Angling, a Day 78 Saint Francis and the Sow 81 The Choir 82 Two Set Out on Their Journey 83 Brother of My Heart 84 Fisherman 85 Wait 87


Daybreak 91 The Gray Heron 92 In the Bamboo Hut 93 Lava 94 Blackberry Eating 96 Kissing the Toad 97 Crying 98 Les Invalides 99 On the Tennis Court at Night 100


The Sadness of Brothers 105 Goodbye 109 Looking at Your Face 111 The Last Hiding Places of Snow 112 52 Oswald Street 118


The Rainbow 123 The Apple 125 Memory of Wilmington 126 The Still Time 128 There Are Things I Tell to No One 130 Pont Neuf at Nightfall 133 The Apple Tree 135 A Milk Bottle 137 Flying Home 139



The Road Between Here and There 147 The Angel 149 Middle of the Night 150 Conception 151 The Sow Piglet’s Escapes 152 The Olive Wood Fire 153 Milk 154 Lake Memphremagog 155 The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak 156 The Frog Pond 157 The Old Life 159


Prayer 163 The Ferry Stopping at MacMahon’s Point 164 Mount Fuji at Daybreak 165 Break of Day 166 Farm Picture 167 Some Song 168 Coinaliste 169 Driftwood from a Ship 170 Fire in Luna Park 171 The Geese 172 The Shroud 173


Chamberlain’s Porch 177 Cemetery Angels 178 December Day in Honolulu 179 On the Oregon Coast 180 Last Holy Fragrance 182 The Past 186 First Day of the Future 189 The Fundamental Project of Technology 190 The Waking 192 That Silent Evening 195 The Seekonk Woods 197

Acknowledgments 203 Index 205

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