Collected Poems

Collected Poems

by Stanley Kunitz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393322941
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 285
Sales rank: 829,313
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stanley Kunitz, much-honored poet, was cofounder of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and of Poets House in New York City. He died in 2006.

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.

Table of Contents

Reflections13
from Intellectual Things (1930)
Change17
Single Vision18
Particular Lullaby20
Promise Me21
Strange Calendar22
Poem23
Deciduous Branch25
The Words of the Preacher26
Ambergris27
Approach of Autumn28
The Pivot29
He30
Very Tree31
Prophecy on Lethe33
Lovers Relentlessly34
Nocturne35
For Proserpine36
Parting37
I Dreamed That I Was Old38
Night-Piece39
Between Me and the Rock40
Transformations41
First Love42
Last Words43
Eagle44
So Intricately Is This World Resolved45
Benediction46
In a Strange House48
Master and Mistress49
Organic Bloom50
Beyond Reason51
The Lesson52
Vita Nuova53
from Passport to the War (1944)
Reflection by a Mailbox57
The Last Picnic58
Welcome the Wrath59
Night Letter60
Father and Son62
The Hemorrhage64
The Harsh Judgment66
Confidential Instructions67
The Signal from the House68
The Tutored Child69
The Economist's Song70
The Old Clothes Man71
The Fitting of the Mask73
The Supper Before Last75
The Daughters of the Horseleech76
Careless Love77
The Guilty Man78
Between the Acts79
This Day This World80
The Last Question81
How Long Is the Night?82
The Reckoning83
Open the Gates84
from This Garland, Danger, in Selected Poems: 1928-1958
The Science of the Night87
Green Ways89
When the Light Falls90
Among the Gods91
As Flowers Are92
The Waltzer in the House93
Sotto Voce94
Grammar Lesson95
She Wept, She Railed96
Foreign Affairs97
The Unwithered Garland99
The Man Upstairs100
The Approach to Thebes101
The Dark and the Fair103
The Thief105
End of Summer108
Goose Pond109
The Dragonfly110
The War Against the Trees113
The Thing That Eats the Heart115
By Lamplight116
The Scourge117
Hermetic Poem118
To the Reader (Baudelaire)119
The Way Down121
The Class Will Come to Order124
The Summing-Up126
Revolving Meditation127
A Spark of Laurel130
from the Testing-Tree (1971)
Journal for My Daughter135
An Old Cracked Tune141
The Portrait142
The Magic Curtain143
After the Last Dynasty146
The Illumination148
Robin Redbreast149
River Road151
Summer Solstice (Mandelstam)153
Tristia (Mandelstam)154
The Mound Builders156
The Customs Collector's Report159
The Gladiators161
The System163
Around Pastor Bonhoeffer164
Bolsheviks (Stolzenberg)167
Three Floors168
The Flight of Apollo169
King of the River170
The Mulch173
Indian Summer at Land's End174
Cleopatra (Akhmatova)175
Dante (Akhmatova)176
Boris Pasternak (Akhmatova)177
The Artist179
The Testing-Tree180
The Game184
from the Layers, in the Poems of Stanley Kunitz 1928-1978
The Knot187
What of the Night?188
Quinnapoxet190
Words for the Unknown Makers192
To a Slave Named Job192
Sacred to the Memory192
Girl with Sampler193
Trompe l'Oeil194
A Blessing of Women194
The Catch197
The Crystal Cage198
Signs and Portents200
Firesticks203
The Lincoln Relics204
Meditations on Death (Ungaretti)208
The Quarrel212
The Unquiet Ones213
My Sisters214
Route Six215
The Layers217
from Next-to-Last Things (1985)
The Snakes of September221
The Abduction222
Raccoon Journal224
The Old Darned Man227
The Scene (Blok)229
The Image-Maker230
Lamplighter: 1914231
Day of Foreboding233
Three Small Parables for My Poet Friends234
The Round236
Passing Through238
The Long Boat240
The Wellfleet Whale241
from Passing Through: The Later Poems (1995)
My Mother's Pears249
Chariot251
In the Dark House253
Halley's Comet256
Hornworm: Summer Reverie258
Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation259
The Sea, That Has No Ending ...261
Proteus264
Touch Me266
Notes267
Acknowledgments279
Index281

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