Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading: The Collected Poems - Stanley Kunitz.

How should you read a Collected Poems, front to back or back to front? It's not a silly question. The idea of starting with the most recent and working back - seeing where the person has come from - is a fine idea. It's too late for this one though, I'm nearly half way and must be close to Kunitz's major shift in style which happened around 1971.

Kunitz noted that his early poems "were very intricate, dense and formal. . . . They were written in conventional metrics and had a very strong beat to the line. . . . In my late poems I've learned to depend on a simplicity that seems almost nonpoetic on the surface, but has reverberations within that keep it intense and alive".

His changed styles: I Dreamed That I Was Old is from an very early collection and The Portrait from a post-1970 collection. More here and here.

His first collection was published in 1930. Yeats had some of his best poems ahead of him at the time and some of Kunitz work shows a definite Yeatsian influence. His later work is often classed with the "confessional poetry" of such as Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke.

For 50 years he tended his lush garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His last book, "The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden," is a collection of essays and conversations produced in collaboration with his literary assistant, Genine Lentine, is next on my reading list thanks to a Kunitz enthusiast in the LitLab Group.

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