Feature

Maxine Kumin, 1925–2014

The Pulitzer Prize–winning poet who wrote about her farm

Poet Maxine Kumin made a lifelong habit of memorizing verse. She swam laps as a teenager to the cadence of W.H. Auden and later wrote about reciting Gerard Manley Hopkins during road trips: “The priest’s sprung metronome tick-tocks, / repeating how old winter is. It asks / each mile, snow fog battening the valleys, / what is all this juice and all this joy?”

Maxine Winokur was born in Philadelphia as “the youngest of four children of a Jewish family,” said The New York Times, and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1946. That year she married Victor Kumin and was soon “enveloped by marriage and motherhood in the Boston suburbs.” She became so close to fellow poet Anne Sexton, said The Boston Globe, that the two “kept a private phone line between their houses open during the day, whistling into the receiver to summon each other when they had lines to share.” Sexton suggested the title for Kumin’s 1972 Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, Up Country, and remained a constant influence even after her suicide in 1974.

By then the Kumins had moved to “a rundown farm on land thick with brush and brambles” in New Hampshire, said the Concord, N.H., Monitor. Working the farm made Kumin’s language more muscular and her poetry, she later said, “more intimately about what I saw and what I felt.” Along with other works, Kumin wrote 17 books of poetry and served as the U.S. poet laureate. In her last collection, And Short the Season, due out this spring, she took a final look around the farm: “rich new grass the horses nose / and nibble like sleepwalkers held fast— / brittle beauty—might this be the last?”

Recommended

Protesters in India demand official investigation into Adani Group
Protests against Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India.
Anger in India

Protesters in India demand official investigation into Adani Group

Health care workers stage massive walkout in U.K. over low wages
Healthcare workers protest in the United Kingdom.
They've Had Enough

Health care workers stage massive walkout in U.K. over low wages

Putin promised not to kill Zelensky, says former Israeli prime minister
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
he gave his word

Putin promised not to kill Zelensky, says former Israeli prime minister

Hundreds killed in powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey, Syria
Collapsed building in Adana, Turkey
Nature's Terrors

Hundreds killed in powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey, Syria

Most Popular

United States shoots down Chinese spy balloon over Atlantic Ocean
A suspected Chinese spy balloon over Montana.
99 Red Balloons?

United States shoots down Chinese spy balloon over Atlantic Ocean

New report describes numerous security breaches at the Supreme Court
Supreme Court building.
Problems with Justice

New report describes numerous security breaches at the Supreme Court

Yale honors Black girl who had the police called on her for spraying lanternflies
Spotted lanterflies
black girl magic

Yale honors Black girl who had the police called on her for spraying lanternflies