Monday, March 14, 2011

Stanley Kunitz

Two time United States Poet Laureate, Stanley Kunitz, died in 2006 at the age of 100. He left behind him a long an productive career. He published his last poetry collection just a year before he died.

Stanley Kunitz father committed suicide 6 weeks before he was born. This is often reflected in his poetry.

My mother never forgave my father for killing himself, especially at such an awkward time and in a public park, that spring when I was waiting to be born. She locked his name in her deepest cabinet and would not let him out, though I could hear him thumping. When I came down from the attic with the pastel portrait in my hand of a long-lipped stranger with a brave moustache and deep brown level eyes, she ripped it into shreds without a single word and slapped me hard. In my sixty-fourth year I can feel my cheek still burning.
Below is Kunitz reading Touch Me, the last poem from his last published collection. Kunitz was known for his gardening. In his last collection, he reflects on life by reflecting on his garden. He once said:
"It's the way things are, death and life inextricably bound to each other. One of my feelings about working the land is that I am celebrating a ritual of death and resurrection. Every spring I feel that. I am never closer to the miraculous than when I am grubbing in the soil." 
The first line of the poem is apparently the same first line of a poem he wrote when he was younger.

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.

Thanks to Catherine Ellsworth for sending me a link to this poet

1 Responses to “Stanley Kunitz”

Paul Clagett said...
March 15, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Beautifully touching and moving.