poem index

About this poet

On June 6, 1925, Maxine Kumin was born in Philadelphia. She received her BA and MA from Radcliffe College.

She has published numerous books of poetry, including And Short the Season: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2014); Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010 (W. W. Norton, 2010); Still to Mow (2009); Jack (2003); The Long Marriage (2003); Bringing Together (2003); Connecting the Dots (1996); Looking for Luck (1992), which received the Poets' Prize; Nurture (1989); The Long Approach (1986); Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief (1982); House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate (1975); and Up Country: Poems of New England (1972), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize.

She is also the author of a memoir, Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery (W. W. Norton, 2000); four novels; a collection of short stories; more than twenty children's books; and five books of essays, most recently The Roots of Things: Essays (Northwestern University Press, 2009) and Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2000).

She has received the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern Poetry, an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Sarah Joseph Hale Award, the Levinson Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize from Poetry, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, and the National Council on the Arts.

She has served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and Poet Laureate of New Hampshire, and is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She died on February 6, 2014.

Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Maxine Kumin, 1925 - 2014
          How did we get to be old ladies—
          my grandmother's job—when we 
          were the long-leggèd girls?
	— Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,		
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as 				
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine 
the original manuscript 
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen, 

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi, 
should have crossed the ocean 
in third class on the Cunard White Star,	
the war just over, the Second World War 
 
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over 
a fence line.  How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back				
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .  
Why didn’t I go? It was fated. 

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,	
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.

From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin. Copyright © 2008 by Maxine Kumin. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Maxine Kumin received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Up Country: Poems of New England

by this poet

poem
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
--you won't know till you get there which to do.

poem
is vertical:
garden, pond, uphill

pasture, run-in shed.
Through pines, Pumpkin Ridge. 

Two switchbacks down
church spire, spit of town.

Where I climb I inspect
the peas, cadets erect

in lime-capped rows,
hear hammer blows

as pileateds peck
the rot of shagbark hickories

enlarging last 
year's pterodactyl
poem
Up attic, Lucas Harrison, God rest
his frugal bones, once kept a tidy account
by knifecut of some long-gone harvest.
The wood was new. The pitch ran down to blunt 
the year: 1811, the score: 10, he carved
into the center rafter to represent
his loves, beatings, losses, hours, or maybe
the butternuts that taxed