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Selected Poems: Galway Kinnell Paperback – May 10, 1983
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Read A New Selected Poems to catch Galway Kinnell's myriad fine-tunings of poems decades old; read it for the pleasure of watching his early formalism blossom into long, joyous, almost Whitmanesque lines; but most of all, read it for the eagle's-eye view it provides of one of our finest American poets. Well into his 70s, Kinnell is still producing poetry as visceral as it is philosophical, forging the universal from the fleshy, messy specifics of life. "Lieutenant! / This corpse will not stop burning!" comes the cry in "The Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible," a remarkable war poem that literally embodies his political anger. Throughout A New Selected Poems, which Kinnell has culled from eight previous collections spanning 24 years, that corpse burns fiercely, fiercely, as if to heed the poet's own warning from "Another Night in the Ruins":
How many nights must it takeKinnell is a poet who feels life most keenly as it slips through his fingers. Nothing lasts, but this is less cause for lament than for celebration; after all, he tells us, "the wages / of dying is love." Before we break out the booze and have ourselves a ball, however, there are the poems from his brutal Book of Nightmares to consider, with their apocalyptic howling; his Vermont poems, with their "silent, startled, icy, black language / of blackberry eating in late September"; the noise and clatter of his early New York poems, "Where instants of transcendence / Drift in oceans of loathing and fear..." Kinnell is a poet with a leg in each world, one up above where the bears and porcupines live, and one down below, in what we might call the imaginative underworld. Witness the stunning progression of "When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone," in which he is both Orpheus and a misanthropic Eurydice, singing himself back to the company of the human. How glad we are that Kinnell failed to look back! In the tender "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight," the poet advises his infant daughter, "Kiss / the mouth / that tells you, here, / here is the world." After reading these poems, you might feel like doing the same. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
one such as me to learn
that we aren't, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
to open ourselves, to be
From Publishers Weekly
Kinnell's Selected of 1982 won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award; this new retrospective contains many of the same poems, along with ample selections from the three books that have appeared in the interim (the most recent was 1994's Imperfect Thirst). Kinnell's earliest efforts, in which the poet attempted a more formal, Yeats-inflected style, are omitted completely, but the book presents an adequate cull of Kinnell's ambitious work from the '60s and '70s, including selections from What a Kingdom It Was (1960), Body Rags (1968) and Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980) that differ from the '82 selection. Exploring ideas of consciousness and mortality, the deeply Romantic poems of this period typically develop in short, numbered sections full of dark imagery: "I have come to myself empty, the rope/ strung out behind me/ in the fall sun/ suddenly glorified with all my blood." Like his deep-image peers Robert Bly and James Wright, Kinnell often seeks transcendence through immersion in nature: "Across gull tracks/ And wind ripples in the sand/ The wind seethes. My footprints/ Slogging for the absolute/ Already begin vanishing." Kinnell's later work maintains a similar mode in lyrics composed of long, single stanzas. Elemental as ever, these poems forcefully evince Kinnell's longstanding themes of human extremity--birth, death, sex--but frequently veer into gender-based bathos and heavy-handed lust: "She takes him and talks/ him more swollen. He kneels, opens/ the dark, vertical smile/ linking heaven with the underneath." At this stage in the poet's career, readers might have been better served by a collected volume spanning his entire output, but this well-balanced retrospective provides an appropriate overview of Kinnell's achievements. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This collection affirms in my mind that he wrote some of the finest verse during the last half of the 20th Century. In "The Bear" he reveals the unity of all being even as he vividly and grimly describes the awfulness of the way of tracking and killing a bear from the inside out.
In "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight" he bares the tender love of a father who sees hope and mortality in the growth of a child.
He writes passionate love poems that feel the bones beneath his lover's face. He weaves himself into nature and nature into his flesh. And his language is real, unadorned eloquence:
"In the human heart
There sleeps a green worm
That has spun the heart about itself,
And that shall dream itself black wings
One day to break free into the black sky."
"In the forest I discover a flower.
The invisible life of the thing
Goes up in flames that are invisible,
Like cellophane burning in the sunlight.
It burns up. Its drift is to be nothing."
If you only read one collection by Kinnell, this is a great one. But I guarantee it will leave you want to read more.