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."

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