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The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
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Stanley Kunitz
Stanley Kunitz
Born on July 29, 1905, Stanley Kunitz was the author of many poetry collections, as well as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Selected Poems, 1928-1958...
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Poetry Landmarks
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Poetry Landmark: Stanley Kunitz's Home in Worcester, MA


Photo © Alan Carey

On June 19th, 2010, Stanley Kunitz's childhood home was officially designated a literary landmark by the American Library Association. The house is located on 4 Woodford Street, which lies just off of Providence Street. Built in 1919 by Kunitz's mother, it is not the only place that he lived in Worcester as a child, but it is the only one still intact.

In an interview with Grace Cavalieri, Kunitz said, "There was a cloud that hung over our house in Worcester, Massachusetts and it took me almost fifty years or more before I could face it in a poem [The Portrait]." The 'cloud' was a series of deaths that began with his father, who publicly committed suicide weeks before Kunitz's birth, and was later followed by that of his stepfather and both of his sisters. It was during his lonely childhood that Kunitz began reading the work of Robert Herrick, William Blake, and John Keats. He went on to graduate as the valedictorian of his class at Worcester Classical High School.

The house was bought in 1979 by Greg and Carol Stockmal, though they didn't meet Kunitz until the mid-80's when they recognized him standing on the sidewalk outside. Kunitz inquired about the pear tree he'd planted in the backyard with his mother as a child. The tree still stands today, and from that meeting onward the Stockmals sent a box of its fruit to the poet every pear season. This began a long friendship mediated by many visits and letters. Kunitz later dedicated his poem, "My Mother's Pears," to the Stockmals, writing that the "annual gift of 'my mothers pears' inspired this poem." After the death of her husband in 2009, Carol Stockman donated the entirety of their correspondence with Kunitz to Clark University.

The house has been restored to its original interior appearance, though the second-floor parlor and dining room are used as a gallery. Among the artists the Stockmals have exhibited are John Gaumond, Christina Pappas O'Neill, and Marnie Crawford Samuelson, whose photographs appeared in Kunitz's last book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden. Carol Stockmal plans to open the house for tours at least once a year under the charge of the Stanley Kunitz Boyhood Home Docent Program.

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