Where I Live

Maxine Kumin has been laboring diligently in the fields for half a century—those of poetry and those in which her horses, dogs, and family dwell. Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, her sixteenth volume of poems, gathers the best of five most recent books.

 

Kumin won the Pulitzer Prize (for her 1972 collection Up Country) yet remains a "poet's poet" with the makings of a wildly popular writer. Her work is beautiful, brave, down-to-earth, accessible, moving, and formally rigorous.

 

Where I Live flaunts an uneven magnificence. Animals take center stage. ("Perhaps in the last great turn of the wheel/ I was some sort of grazing animal./") There's the burial of a loved horse: "…his yellow teeth as he lay/ deep on one side and my hand shook—I could hardly see--/ rocking my grief back and forth over this kind death/ the taste of apple wasting in his mouth." Kumin honors old age and departures, but this is a book of shimmering life. "Sunrise is a peach curtain,/ the river a woman/ in a lame dress."

 

Kumin celebrates her long marriage; ("I hope, he says, on the other side there's a lot/ less work, but just in case I'm bringing tools."); she pays homage to poets and writers, relatives and heroines. More, she pays attention to everything. A newborn foal "sticks a foreleg out/ frail as a dowel quivering/ in the unfamiliar air." Magic is rooted in the real. As this poet reminds us, "Allegiance to the land is tenderness."

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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