It is my heart that's late, / it is my song that's flown.
May 15, 2006 2:48 PM   Subscribe

A song has flown. Former Poet Laureate of the United States Stanley Kunitz has died at the age of 100. Through his work as a founding member of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, a former judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and through his own delicate words, he has left an indelible mark on the world of poetry.
posted by jesourie (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
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.

Thank you Stanley and thank you jesurie.
posted by freebird at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2006

Town of Provincetown Honors Kunitz.

NPR -- Poet Stanley Kunitz at 100 [July 29, 2005].
posted by ericb at 3:27 PM on May 15, 2006

MeFi thread from last summer honoring his 100th. birthday celebration. MeFite digaman recounts personal memories of Kunitz in the thread.
posted by ericb at 3:30 PM on May 15, 2006

I'm not a huge fan, but I got to see him read once at the Library of Congress, and it was a hell of an experience.
posted by bardic at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2006

He acknowledged, however, that writing poetry grew harder with age. "The poems are there," he told the Boston Globe in 2000, "but they lie under the debris of the life. One has to dig for them very much harder than one had to at the beginning, when poetry is so largely, in one's youth, a glandular activity."

I'd tack on a "." but feel the need to say something-- anything, really, other than "well, gee, that quote rings so true and he was a great writer, etc., etc."

I focused on modern poetry in undergrad, and wrote a share of poems but found it more and more difficult to really make anything of merit (which is depressing when I think about how my expections of poetry have sunk over the past decade, and how I'm only trying to please myself). With everyone and his mother professing to be not just a writer, but a (pass me the barf bag) poet, and the growth of slams and "spoken word," I've largely grown to detest the part of me that tries to write and just gave up.

Instead, I'm reminded and brush up on poets I love. Kunitz was one of them. "The Unquiet Ones" slows my day to a standstill, and convinces me of a beauty I keep forgetting about. Each rediscovery feels new.

So thanks, jesourie, for the sad news.
posted by herrdoktor at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2006

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:47 PM on May 15, 2006

"The Testing-Tree", section 4

In the recurring dream
  my mother stands
    in her bridal gown
under the burning lilac,
  with Bernard Shaw and Bertie
    Russell kissing her hands;
the house behind her is in ruins;
  she is wearing an owl's face
    and makes barking noises.
Her minatory finger points.
  I pass through the cardboard doorway
    askew in the field
and peer down a well
  where an albino walrus huffs.
    He has the gentlest eyes.
If the dirt keeps sifting in,
  staining the water yellow,
    why should I be blamed?
Never try to explain.
  That single Model A
    sputtering up the grade
unfurled a highway behind
  where the tanks maneuver,
    revolving their turrets.
In a murderous time
  the heart breaks and breaks
    and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
  through dark and deeper dark
    and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
  Where is my testing-tree?
    Give me back my stones!
posted by languagehat at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

posted by trip and a half at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2006

posted by lilboo at 8:09 PM on May 15, 2006

posted by Dean Keaton at 12:21 AM on May 16, 2006

Godspeed, Mr. Kunitz.

posted by jokeefe at 2:24 AM on May 16, 2006

This poem was linked, but I want to post it in the blue.

Of the sky, that is, viewed over Provincetown Harbor from a garden at the top of the hill on the West End.

(And thanks for remembering, ericb.)

Touch Me

_Summer is late, my heart_.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Stanley Kunitz

Thank you, Mr. Kunitz.
posted by digaman at 6:26 AM on May 16, 2006

Most poets are terrible at reading their poems out loud. Kunitz, however, was fantastic.

posted by painquale at 8:15 AM on May 16, 2006

Outside of his remarkable body of work, Kunitz ought also be remembered as a great editor and mentor. Check out this list of a few of his selections for the Yale Younger prize -- Carolyn Forche, Robert Hass' brilliant Field Guide, Peter Klappert, Hugh Seidman's stunning Collecting Evidence.

He worked very closely with Louis Gluck, and I highly highly recommend her fascinating and charming essay "On Stanley Kunitz" from Proofs and Theories. Kunitz cast a long shadow. Rest in Peace.

posted by verysleeping at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2006

posted by Uccellina at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2006

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