Poetry of Stanley Kunitz


The life of the American poet Stanley Kunitz (1905–
2006) dispels the myth that one’s creative powers
diminish with age. Following his Pulitzer Prize-winning
Selected Poems, 1928–1958, Kunitz published four
additional collections between the ages of 66 and 90
(the latest, Passing Through: The Later Poems, New
and Selected
, received the National Book Award). At
the age of 95, in the autumn of 2000, Stanley Kunitz
became the tenth Poet Laureate of the United States.

Kunitz’s work passes through an evolution in style from
strictly formal to a spare and elegant prose that is both
accessible and evocative. In the poet’s own words, his
work deals with “…the transformation of individual experience…”
in poems written “…for the ear.” He states that
at the root of much of his poetry is the knowledge “…that
I am living and dying at once, and my conviction is to
report that dialogue…” in verse that is “…essentially dark
and grieving — elegiac.” Yet he has produced a body of
work which affirms life for its energy in the face of finitude.
The class will examine selected poems from the
poet’s long career, focusing on the later collections.

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