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Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010 Paperback – July 5, 2011
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Kumin excels in earthy images that draw us into the necessary balances of nature, including life and death. In some of the poems people don't disturb the natural cycle. In others, they are far from respectful. For example, in "Bringing Down the Birds," the question is asked whether, if we could scientifically restock extinct animals such as passenger pigeons, we would "do them all in again."
WHERE I LIVE encompasses a tableau of subjects though. Some ponder questions about predecessor or contemporary poets. One, for instance, is entitled "Czeslaw Milosz Visits the Library of Congress." There are also "Skinnydipping with William Wordsworth" and "Imagining Marianne Moore in the Butterfly Garden.Read more ›
Her topics vary greatly and her observations are often are anything but sweet. In talking about Iraq, she doesn't back away from revealing the discrepancies between the suffering caused by liberators and a religious leader claiming there is a "spiritual value of suffering". She concludes that the sun comes up, "staining the sky with indifference". She also contrasts the ideals of the Geneva Convention with vice-presidents and Supreme Court justices who engage in what she calls "canned hunting". In "Please Pay Attention as the Ethics Have Changed", she wonders what kind of Humane Society (a word play on "human" society) would permit such cruelty to an animal (or moreso, to a person). From Daniel Pearl's tragic death to contaminated drinking water, she reveals her heart in her words.
She also speaks of stray dogs and abandoned cats with great feeling, and you get the impression that it isn't simply the immediate sadness that she's getting at...Read more ›
Maxine Kumin's subtle uses of rhyme, rhythm and modified poetic forms such as the sonnet and villanelle support her revelations about how extraordinary ordinary living can be. How wonderful it is to be alive. How dangerous to be human. Sometimes how incredibly sad. But always, even in her darkest thoughts on how savage we can be as a species - even to our own kind - there is redemption through our ability to learn, to regret, to feel shame.
Kumin's language is clear, her phrasing simple, and her imagery vibrant. Now in her 85th year, she writes with a spiritual vitality that only comes through having experienced many losses and great loves - and having gained wisdom through them. Or, as she puts it, in life "Nothing makes up for losing, though love is a welcome guest."
And when you finish this book, order her "Selected Poems: 1960-1990."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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Maxine Kuman was part of the generation of poets who inspired me to write, and it has been my habit to buy a book of theirs to privately mark their passing. Read morePublished on April 3, 2014 by Woodsy Wilds
The absorption of poetry is visceral, right? Personal opinion at that level shouldn't really be expressed, so I'll tread lightly here. Read morePublished on May 5, 2013 by Emma Hardesty
Maxine (I call her by her first name because after reading this book I feel I personally know her) is a genius. A delightful genius. Read morePublished on November 15, 2011 by Beverly Rorem